The #StopThinkVerify campaign is a districtwide awareness initiative and movement towards creating a safer, more informed digital environment for our students by educating students, parents and the broader community about the risks associated with deepfake technology.


Protecting Students from Deepfake Deception

Our nation is witnessing a troubling rise in the number of deepfake incidents, a trend that is casting a shadow over the safety and well-being of our students.

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#StopThinkVerify is an awareness initiative and movement towards creating a safer, more informed digital environment for our students. The primary objective of this campaign is to educate students, parents and the broader community about the risks associated with deepfake technology. It aims to foster an environment where digital content is approached with a critical eye, promoting verification techniques to discern truth from deception.

Recognizing the gravity of this issue, the Ottawa Area Superintendents Association, composed of 14 members from Ottawa County school districts and districts in the northern part of Allegan County, united on this crucial initiative. A collective concern for the impact of deepfakes on our students has propelled us to take a stand and work together to combat this challenge. As education leaders and protectors of student welfare, we cannot quietly stand by as this digital menace grows. The emotional and psychological toll on students subjected to or involved in deepfake incidents is alarming. 


What are Deepfakes?

Deepfakes are sophisticated digital creations that alter audio and video so convincingly that distinguishing between authentic and fake content becomes challenging. These creations leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate fake videos or audio recordings that appear remarkably realistic.

CBC Kids News | Deepfakes: How to Spot Them

How to Identify Deepfakes 

While there is no single tell-tale sign of how to spot a deepfake, there are several things you can do to evaluate credibility:

  • Pay attention to the face.
  • Examine foreheads and other facial areas for signs of unnatural smoothness or excessive wrinkles.
  • Assess whether shadows fall in expected places across the face.
  • Evaluate glasses for unusual levels of glare and check if the glare moves consistently with facial movements.
  • Inspect facial hair for its natural appearance.
  • Observe the frequency of blinking to determine if it’s either insufficient or excessive.
  • Assess the naturalness of lip movements and their alignment with spoken words.

Can You Tell Real from Fake? 

Play Which Face Is Real?

How to Deter Deepfakes from Spreading

  • Don’t share unless you’re 100 percent certain of its authenticity.
  • Do a quick gut check to assess the likelihood that a video or photo is real.
  • If you’re still unsure, check online resources designed to prevent the spread of misinformation.
  • Be cautious about posting pictures and videos online.

ABC News | Sharing photos of your kids? Maybe not after you watch this deepfake ad

What to do if you or someone you know is deepfaked

If you or someone you know is the victim of a malicious deepfake, it’s important to act swiftly and utilize a combination of legal resources, support organizations and reporting mechanisms to mitigate the impact. Always document the incident thoroughly and consider securing your digital presence against further attacks.

Students and Families: If something online seems suspicious or malicious, report it through one or more of the following:

  • Your school’s reporting system
  • Ok2Say – Call: 1-8-555-OK2SAY (1-855-565-2729) Text: 652729 (OK2SAY) Email: ok2say@mi.gov
  • Law enforcement
  • For nude deepfakes, create a case at Take It Down 

Other Tips:

  • Document everything. Record all evidence of this abuse — screenshot the images, your takedown requests, and any related communications. 
  • Flag or report the post and alert the platform administrators or moderators. Non-consensual pornographic content of any kind violates all mainstream platform use policies.
  • Contact a lawyer to explore civil or criminal avenues. It’s possible to seek justice under laws that define related crimes, such as revenge porn, extortion, harassment, or defamation, and  some of the most effective ways to remove this content are related to IP or copyright laws.
  • Reach out to any of a number of civil society groups. Organizations such as DeepTrust Alliance, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and EndTab are dedicated to helping and protecting women who are victims of this crime. Other gender advocacy and women’s rights organizations can connect you to hotlines, attorney recommendations, and mental health resources and support. 

By the Numbers: 24 Deepfake Statistics – Current Trends, Growth, and Popularity (December 2023)

Legal and Government Resources

  • Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI): Offers legal resources and assistance for victims of non-consensual pornography, which can include deepfakes.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): While primarily focused on consumer protection, the FTC provides resources on digital privacy and online security, which can be relevant for deepfake victims.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): Operated by the FBI, IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints, including those related to deepfakes.

Tech Company Policies

  • Social Media Platforms: Major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have policies against deepfakes and mechanisms for reporting them. Check the specific platform’s help center for instructions on how to report.
  • Google: Offers a tool for requesting the removal of non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images from Google search results, which can be applicable in some deepfake scenarios.

Non-Profit Organizations

  • Witness.org: Provides resources and training for using video in human rights documentation and advocacy, including dealing with deepfakes and misinformation.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): Focuses on defending civil liberties in the digital world and offers resources on digital privacy, including dealing with deepfakes.

Prevention Strategies

  • Contact your local legislators to advocate for protective and preventive legislation.
  • Share with care: The first step in avoiding deepfakes is to be extremely cautious about what personal information you share online. Limit the amount of data available about yourself, especially high-quality photos and videos, that could be used to create a deepfake. You can adjust the settings of social media platforms so that only trusted people can see what you share. Of course, you should also make sure that you trust anyone who requests to follow or friend you.
  • Enable strong privacy settings: Take full advantage of websites’ privacy settings to control who can access your personal information and content. Restrict who can see your photos, videos, and other sensitive data. This includes websites where you store photo files. Reduce the amount of publicly available material, and you minimize the resources potential deepfake creators have.
  • Watermark photos: When sharing images or videos online, consider using a digital watermark on them. This can discourage deepfake creators from using your content since it makes their efforts more traceable. There are online websites that can add watermarks to your photos for you.
  • Learn about deepfakes and AI: The realm of AI is changing rapidly. Staying abreast of the latest developments can help you stay vigilant. You don’t need to become an expert, but following the news about these technologies is important for everybody. This knowledge can help you recognize potential red flags when encountering suspicious content.
  • Use multi-factor authentication: These days, you really should double your security by implementing multi-factor authentication for all of your accounts. This is when you need an extra step to log into an account, such as a facial scan, entering a code texted to your phone, or using a standalone app on your device. This extra layer of security helps prevent unauthorized access to your accounts, reducing the chances of someone obtaining your personal data.
  • Use long, strong, and unique passwords: Every password should be at least 16 characters long, unique to the account, and contain a random mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. The best way to remember all these unique passwords is by storing them in a password manager with MFA turned on. 
  • Keep your software up to date: Keep your devices and software up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Outdated software can have vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit to access your data. We recommend turning on automatic updates so you don’t have to constantly check for new updates. 
  • Don’t take the phishing bait: Be extremely cautious when receiving emails, direct messages, texts, phone calls, or other digital communications if the source is unknown. This is especially true if the message is demanding that you act fast, such as claiming your computer has been hacked or that you won a prize. Deepfake creators attempt to manipulate your emotions so you download malware or share personal information. Verify the identity of the sender and avoid clicking on suspicious links. We always say: think before you click.

Source: https://staysafeonline.org/resources/how-to-protect-yourself-against-deepfakes/

Who is sponsoring this initiative?

The Ottawa Area Superintendents Association is sponsoring this information initiative.

  • Allendale Public Schools
  • Black River Public School
  • Coopersville Public Schools
  • Grand Haven Area Public Schools
  • Hamilton Community Schools
  • Holland Christian Schools
  • Holland Public Schools
  • Hudsonville Public Schools
  • Jenison Public Schools
  • Ottawa Area Intermediate School District
  • Saugatuck Public Schools
  • Spring Lake Public Schools
  • West Ottawa Public Schools
  • Zeeland Public Schools