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 KilmerWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingJohn Kerry: GOP lawmaker against coronavirus package 'tested positive for being an ---hole' Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyPelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Sunday shows preview: State governors and top medical officials prepare for next week of COVID-19 response Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (R-Texas).

And, in May, Reps. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierHouse Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump, Congress agree on coronavirus package? Biden rallygoers offered hand sanitizer amid coronavirus concerns MORE (D-Calif.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoTo fight the rising tide of hate in our country, we must stop bias-based bullying in the classroom Hillicon Valley: House passes key surveillance bill | Paul, Lee urge Trump to kill FISA deal | White House seeks help from tech in coronavirus fight | Dem urges Pence to counter virus misinformation Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency 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.