Britain’s Channel 4 last week produced a stunningly real-looking parody video of Queen Elizabeth’s annual Christmas Day message that the network claims highlights the dangers of "deepfake" technology.
Channel 4 has been releasing its own "alternative" Christmas message for nearly 30 years.
The technique of manipulating someone's face and voice in a "deepfake" video is "more easy than most people would think," the channel said in a separate video showing how it synthetically recreated the queen with the help of actress Debra Stephenson.
"There’s two parts to this Christmas message," a representative for Channel 4 said in the video. "There is a serious part, which is really a message that people do need to think about where they get information from and whether they can trust the people who give it to them. … Obviously, on the other hand, we’re making a little thing on Christmas Day, we want it to be fun. We want it to be entertaining."
In this undated photo issued on Friday Dec. 25, 2020, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. (Associated Press)
"So much of our world today comes to us through these screens," Stephenson (voicing the queen) says after doing a dance for TikTok in the video. "Which brings me back to that question of trust of whether what we see and hear is always as it seems."
The short video, which also included a toilet paper shortage joke — about commoners learning what it's like to have a "predicament on the throne" — and references to Harry and Meghan’s departure and allegations against Prince Andrew, has received mixed reactions.
The Sun’s Simon Boyle said although he isn’t a royalist, the queen always gets it right and the spoof video is "a million miles away from the public mood — and not nearly as clever or funny as they think it is."
British journalist Benjamin Butterworth called the video "appalling."
"For a channel that highlights the dangers of fake news and doctored content online in its news output, it’s very disappointing to see it indulging in the same methods for ‘comedy’ and normalising the blurred lines."
Brexit proponent Nigel Farage simply wrote, "How dare they."
Still, some others liked it.
"I think that it was not only funny but gets across the point well about fakery and how much of it there is out there on the multiple screens we are glued to these days," one Twitter user wrote.
Another said, "Great work and just highlights how easy it is to spread fake news."
Channel 4 called the video "a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age."