Berkeley professor warns deepfake technology being 'weaponized' against women

A professor at the University of California, Berkeley on Tuesday warned that deepfake technology is being used to target women and create nonconsensual pornography.

“These aren’t abstract notions,” Hany Farid, who is also a senior advisor to the Counter Extremism Project, told Hill.TV while discussing the threats that deepfake technology poses to society as a whole.

“We see how this technology more often than not is being weaponized against women and so I think we have to now start taking that more seriously,” he continued.

Farid emphasized that this isn’t a problem for just movie stars or women in the public eye, saying that the democratization of this technology has made it cheaper and more accessible to target anyone.

“There is something deeply troubling about this,” he said. “I understand folks on the free speech side will say, ‘there is a free expression issue’ but you also have to think about the harm to individual depicted.”

The Berkeley professor said addressing the threats of this technology will take a multi-pronged approach, arguing that lawmakers need to start thinking about how to regulate this space.

“We just have to keep putting pressure both in the public, from the press, from the advertisers and threats of legislation and penalties and the hope is we can start to corral what is the mess of the internet right now,” he told Hill.TV.

Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to assess and cut down the threat posed by deepfake videos, which are created through the use of artificial intelligence to manipulate original content.

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an annual study of deepfakes.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Reps. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerBerkeley professor warns deepfake technology being 'weaponized' against women Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA Hillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingBerkeley professor warns deepfake technology being 'weaponized' against women Hillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target 'deepfake' video threat MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyOmar introduces resolution affirming 'right to participate in boycotts' ahead of possible vote on anti-BDS bill House Democrats seek to move past rifts with minimum wage bill CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump primary challenger Bill Weld responds to rally chants: 'We are in a fight for the soul of the GOP' Democratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' Poll shows congresswomen attacked by Trump with weak favorability ratings MORE (R-Texas).

And, in May, Reps. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierSenators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment It's time for the left to advance a shared vision of national security: Start by passing the NDAA MORE (D-Calif.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoStudent loan borrowers are defaulting yearly — how can we fix it? Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker House approves amendment to reverse transgender military ban MORE (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill that aims to address the exploitation of private, sexually explicit or nude images by giving victims the ability to pursue civil cases.

More than 41 states and Washington, D.C., have passed bills criminalizing revenge porn, but some lawmakers argue these laws offer incomplete and inconsistent coverage even in states with laws on the books.

“As a former prosecutor, I can speak directly to the importance of enacting substantive and consistent laws to ensure justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes,” Katko said in a statement announcing the bill.

“With that in mind, I am proud to join Congresswoman Speier in introducing the SHIELD Act, which would establish commonsense privacy protections to prohibit the widespread distribution of nonconsensual pornography,” he added. 

— Tess Bonn

— This report was updated at 11:41 a.m.