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 KilmerHouse extends Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress for another year Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingDemocrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Retiring lawmaker's 2018 opponent won't run for seat, citing 'difficult' pregnancies MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyOn The Money: Fed holds rates steady in end to challenging year | Powell says deal on new NAFTA could settle economic jitters | CEOs' economic outlook drops for seventh straight quarter House panel votes to temporarily repeal SALT deduction cap Blue Dogs issue new call for House leaders to abide by pay-go rule MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGroup of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' CNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy MORE (R-Texas).

And, in May, Reps. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Speier to call on IG investigation into Navy chief's firing Nunes faces potential ethics review over alleged meeting with Ukrainian official MORE (D-Calif.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Progressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Democratic lawmakers call on Judiciary Committee to advance 'revenge porn' law 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.