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Clarke introduces bill to combat high-tech altered videos

Lawmakers worry that deepfakes will influence the 2020 election.

June 14, 2019 Mary Frost
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke introduced the DEEPFAKES Accountability Act in Washington on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Office of Re. Clarke
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Legislators are worried that altered videos — many created using artificial intelligence and so real in appearance they are called “deepfakes” — will be used in disinformation campaigns before the 2020 election.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, who represents Park Slope and Crown Heights, introduced the DEEPFAKES Accountability Act on Wednesday. This bill would hold video creators accountable when posting altered videos, and would require malicious deepfakes to be labeled with a watermark and a disclaimer identifying them as manipulated content.

A digitally doctored video of Nancy Pelosi got more than 2.5 million hits on Facebook after President Donald Trump shared it on social media, while a fake video of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was uploaded by activists to Instagram, in which phony Zuckerberg said he was in control of billions of people’s lives.

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“The DEEPFAKES Accountability Act means everyday Americans will have clear indications when content is faked — and when content doesn’t abide by this, we will hold these content creators accountable in a court of law,” Clarke, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.

Clarke said she was aiming to prevent “election interference from both foreign and domestic players who could use deep fake technology to alter images and videos of candidates running for office.”

The bill — whose acronym stands for Defending Each and Every Person from False Appearances by Keeping Exploitation Subject to — still has a long way to go before it becomes law. Clarke spokesperson Sarah Sinovic told the Brooklyn Eagle that Clarke “will be raising awareness to her fellow members of Congress about how deep fakes and other disinformation impacts American democracy.”

Staving off 2020 disruption

Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, warned during a hearing on Thursday that advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning “have led to the advance of advanced digitally doctored types of media, so-called deepfakes, that enable malicious actors to foment chaos, division or crisis — and they have the capacity to disrupt entire campaigns including that for the presidency.”

Deepfake algorithms can portray people doing something they never did or saying words they never uttered, Schiff said. Finding the creators of the deep fakes “will be a constant challenge.”

Schiff played a video for his fellow legislators showing German scientists putting their own words and facial expressions onto images of President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The technology made the Trump and Putin images virtual “puppets” of the German technologists.

“Thinking ahead to 2020 and beyond, one does not need any more imagination to envision even more nightmarish scenarios that would leave the government, the public and the media struggling to learn what is real and what is fake,” he said.

The technology could also lead people to disbelieve the veracity of a real video, he warned.

Facebook declined to take down the fake Pelosi and Zuckerberg videos, instead just lowering their visibility on its platforms.

Zuckerberg has not commented on the deepfake Zuckerberg or his manufactured statement.

“Imagine one man in control of billions of people’s secret data — all their secrets, their lives, their futures — I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me whoever controls the data controls the future,” the altered Zuckerberg said.

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