Is Rishi Sunak’s Bad Pint the Beginning of the End for Trust in Politics & Business?

Written by Reece Dyer

9 August 2023


The digital era has brought with it a plethora of opportunities, yet, at the same time, it has given rise to new challenges, not least of which is the increasing prevalence of edited images and video. Recently, a photo apparently showing the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, pulling a pint topped with an excessive amount of foam made waves across the internet.

However, upon closer examination, it was revealed that the photo had actually been edited. The original, taken at a beer festival on August 1st, presented quite a different scenario. Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East, shared the photo with a disparaging caption but later apologised for disseminating the fake image, drawing attention to the problem of false narratives in our digital age.

The Rise of Deepfake and Its Potential Impact on Brands

The above incident is not a one-off event but a symptom of a growing concern in our technology-driven world. With the escalating quality and ease of creating fake images and videos, discerning reality from fabrication is becoming increasingly arduous.

In the business context, this raises a host of concerns. Imagine a scenario where a competitor creates a fake video of a business owner promoting false claims. The implications for the company’s brand, customer trust, and overall market positioning could be dire.

Back in 2013 a fake advert was created by 4Chan stating that in the new iOS update all phones were now waterproof. As you can imagine this led to some damage to Apple and their phones. Now imagine if this level of prank was done with today’s technology. A video of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook could be made via deepfake stating similar false claims with increased effectiveness. This has already been done with Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis whose likeness and voice were used in a scam. The technology of deepfakes is new but already incredibly convincing, especially considering that such effects are not created by a special effects studio but by software easily found online.

This technological menace poses a real and pressing threat to businesses that depend heavily on their image and the authenticity of their messaging. The boundaries between truth and fiction are blurring, and without proper safeguards, brand credibility might be the next casualty.

Is Legislation the Answer?

Addressing this issue isn’t as straightforward as implementing new laws. While legislation might serve as a deterrent to some, those with malicious intent might continue to exploit this technology, remaining undeterred by legal constraints. Given the speed at which content is shared online, finding and fact-checking the original poster might be a little too late.

Furthermore, this technology isn’t inherently malevolent. It has a multitude of practical applications, ranging from entertainment to education, and restricting its use might stifle innovation and technological advancement. The balance between regulation and freedom is a delicate one and must be approached with nuanced thought and consideration.

The incident involving Rishi Sunak’s “bad pint” serves as a stark reminder of the thin line between truth, entertainment and deception in our interconnected world. It underscores the pressing need for vigilance, education, and perhaps regulation, not only in politics but across the business spectrum.

While legislation might offer a partial solution, a comprehensive approach that includes technological safeguards, ethical guidelines, and public awareness is vital. The journey towards trust and authenticity in our digital age is fraught with challenges, but it’s a path that we must navigate with care, lest we lose sight of what’s real in a world increasingly dominated by the virtual. For businesses and politicians alike, the stakes have never been higher, and the time to act is now.