In his opening remarks, committee chairman Adam Schiff said, “Advances in AI and machine learning have led to the emergence of advanced digitally doctored media, so-called ‘deepfakes’ that allow malicious actors to foment chaos, division or crisis… Of great concern is that deepfakes could have the power to disrupt the democratic process, particularly the presidential race of 2020.”
Schiff noted that three years ago, lawmakers feared that falsified documents could be used to meddle in elections. “Three years later, we are on the cusp of a technological revolution that could enable even more sinister forms of deception.”
Of paramount concern is that foreign actors could use these deepfakes to spew misinformation through malicious campaigns intended to deceive the public or sway public opinion. Throughout the course of the more-than-two-hour hearing, the committee saw convincing examples of deepfakes and examples of synthetic pictures of people that don’t exist at all.
Former FBI special agent and senior fellow for Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund Clint Watts was part of a four-person panel that testified before the lawmakers of the potential for foreign adversaries to craft synthetic media capabilities that could be used against the US.
“The falsification of audio and video allows manipulators to dupe audience members in highly convincing ways, provoking emotional responses that can lead to widespread mistrust,” Watts warned.
It’s not only lawmakers that are worried about the potential threat of deepfakes. In a June 13 blog post, Neiman Labs looked at myriad ways that deepfakes could be used to manipulate the outcome of an election, noting that “deepfakes have the potential to wreak havoc in contexts such as news, where audio and video are treated as a form of evidence that something actually happened.
“So-called ‘cheapfakes,’ such as the widely circulated clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have already demonstrated the potential for low-tech manipulated video to find a ready audience. The more advanced technology creates a whole new level of speed, scale, and potential for personalization of such disinformation.”