Deepfakes are a threat to national security, say lawmakers

Lawmakers sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats asking what threats deepfakes pose to democracy.


Win McNamee / Techhnews

Deepfakes are a deep concern for Congress. 

Three House representatives want to know what the US’s intelligence community is doing to address “deepfakes,” videos using artificial intelligence to fabricate realistic clips and images of people. The technology became infamous after people began using it to insert celebrity’s faces into pornographic videos on Reddit.  

In the letter, signed by Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, the bipartisan group asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats how they are going to stop the machine-learning powered forgeries, citing national security concerns. 

“You have repeatedly raised the alarm about disinformation campaigns in our elections and other efforts to exacerbate political and social divisions in our society to weaken our nation,” the letter writes. “We are deeply concerned that deep fake technology could soon be deployed by malicious foreign actors.” 

The letter come as nation-states continue to ramp up their efforts to spread misinformation on social media — whether it’s through spreading hoaxes, fake outrage or poising as activist groups. In a video from Buzzfeed and Jordan Peele, the actor demonstrated how easy it was to forge a convincing video of former US President Barack Obama. 

During a Senate hearing with Facebook and Twitter on Sept. 5, Sens. Angus King, a Maine independent, and James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, asked Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about what the social network was doing to address deepfakes. She said that Facebook was investing in technology to address the threat. 

The House representatives also worry in the letter that people will use deepfakes for blackmail. 

“As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States,” the letter said. 

The letter asks for Coats to provide a report to Congress by December 14 on how foreign governments are using the AI, if the US government has technology to detect it, and what actions lawmakers should take to stop the spread of deepfakes.

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