Founder of the Week: Parya Lotfi and DuckDuckGoose

Every week, we highlight one women founder. This week, Parya Lotfi, founder of DuckDuckGoose is put in the spotlight.

You may have seen a video circulating on social media, where the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, appears to tell his army to surrender to the Russian army. The video was a so-called deepfake.    

In short, deepfakes are all kinds of audio-visual content, that has been manipulated or AI-generated. They’re fake but look realistic. They can be done starting from the creation of a non-existing person to the manipulation of content from an existing individual, such as in the case of Zelensky to which unreal facial mimics, as well as voice-over, can be added. An unaided human eye can’t almost distinguish it from a real picture, making deepfakes so dangerous.    

„It was the first time deepfake was used in the kinetic war to spread misinformation and uncertainties, “tells Parya, co-founder of DuckDuckGoose, a deepfake detection startup. We talked with her about her startup and the implication of deepfake in our society.    

How did DuckDuckGoose start?

Parya Lotfi, originally from Iran, came to the Netherlands at the age of 12. During an elective program in Tech-based entrepreneurship, she worked together with other students on a business case study on deepfake detection. A university project that eventually became a business idea for a startup together with other 3 co-founders. “After the project, we saw there were a lot of potential customers, which could become our real customers. Moreover, we already had a working prototype developed. So, after 6 months of following the elective program, we said we’re going to continue and develop a startup out of it”.   

Two and a half years later, from the initial 4 co-founders, 3 stayed and the team grew to 11 more collaborators. They have quite some clients, from government agencies to financial institutions in need of the service offered by DuckDuckGoose. Parya, meanwhile decided to pause her studies, to focus fully on the start-up.    

From an initial commitment of 10 hours a week, now we all went full time on it” says Parya. The first type of deepfake was the face swap through Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat filters

“Those were the first deepfake we got to see publicly. You could swap your face with someone else for example. In this case, it was of course created with good intentions, but imagine if I would swap my face with yours and pretend to be you that’s where the dangerous part comes.” she explains.   

 The dangers of deepfakes

Today the deepfake landscape is much wider and technology is getting better day by day. From a funny filter, today even Teams or Zoom meetings could be manipulated.  “Here you see a video of one of the co-founders, during the same meeting he simply converted his face into another person’s one” explains Parya while showing us some videos.  

Of course, positive implications of deepfake do exist. A startup called LaLa Land created deepfake virtual models so that people can fit clothing from LaLa Land on all kinds of body shapes/sizes. But the negative implications appear to be overtaking and are far scarier. “People can create synthetic identities and use those to commit fraud, such as opening a bank account with a stolen identity or simply creating a face of an untraceable identity” continues Parya.   

Although the deepfake generation landscape can vary from images to videos to audio content. DuckDuckGoose focuses mostly on the facial aspect. Throughout these past two years, Parya and her team started working with the government sector. Among them are the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the Dutch Parliament. Eventually enlarging their service to the fintech industry, specifically whatever entailing remote identification and authentication possibility. This also goes for dating websites, cryptocurrency exchanges, and sharing economics platforms, for example, car-sharing platforms.    

But deepfakes can be a problem everywhere where there are audiovisual media. Even more, because all of us could create a deepfake “These types of software are available as open source. You can just download them or download an application making these kinds of deepfake.”  

Dectect a deepfake

Whether there is any chance to detect a deepfake through the naked eye. Parya unveiled some tricks.

„Let’s say we are in a meeting now and you want to understand if I am a deepfake. A weak point of the technology can be detected when it comes to touching my face or if you would ask me to turn my head. The technology is not robust enough to keep it as realistic as it should be. You would notice something. When it comes to pictures, it gets slightly more difficult. However, it’s still difficult to mimic is the reflection in the eye. So, in case of a deepfake, you could see two different reflections in the eyes, which is uncommon.”

DuckDuckGoose’s mission is to give everyone the right tools to be able to see the difference between real and fake media. This makes technology accessible to everyone. “Because also on Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok, everything might contain deepfake. We live in a digital age, where (almost) everyone has access to the internet. We see lots of visual content daily and it’s important to be aware of what’s fake and what’s not” she specifies.    

Among other things, Parya participated in the Equals Class ’22, together with other 22 inspiring women. Before concluding the interview, she has one last thought to share “Having a good team around you helps, especially when you are young and inexperienced. At DuckDuckGoose we have a really big network of advisors, all experienced people in different fields. So, if you have an idea and want to start with something, just do it. Worse case you will fail, but even then, you will have learned something” concludes Parya.   

Want to read more about amazing woman founders? Click here to read our other Founder of the Week blogs.