House lawmakers urge top intel official to probe national security threat of doctored videos

House lawmakers urge top intel official to probe national security threat of doctored videos
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers are calling on the top U.S. intelligence official to assess the national security threats posed by doctored videos, warning that the manipulated materials could be used as a weapon against the U.S. by a hostile foreign nation. 

The lawmakers sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE on Thursday asking him to have the intelligence community examine the risks posed by "deep fake technology" to be examined and what potential damage could be incurred by such disinformation.

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“By blurring the line between fact and fiction, deep fake technology could undermine public trust in recorded images and videos as objective depictions of reality," House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDem House chairs: Mueller report 'does not exonerate the president' Five takeaways from Mueller's report The lesson of Mueller: An innocent man's defense can look like a guilty man's obstruction MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLeft-center divide forces Dems to scrap budget vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure MORE (D-Fla.) and Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure Ex-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group MORE (R-Fla.) wrote.

"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,” they added.

The threat of doctored videos purporting to be real news clips drew national attention earlier this year after comedian Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed released a viral video that turned out to be a ruse. The video was manipulated to show former President Obama stating a number of controversial comments, but it was actually Peele speaking.

"This is a dangerous time," Peele says in the video, while still imitating the ex-president. "Moving forward we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet. It's a time where we need to rely on trusted news sources."

Schiff in the letter to Coates warned that foreign nations could use these types of "deep fakes" to hurt the U.S. by spreading false information, a concern that is heightened following the extensive disinformation campaigns carried out by the Russians during the 2016 presidential election.

“Deep fakes could become a potent tool for hostile powers seeking to spread misinformation. The first step to help prepare the Intelligence Community, and the nation, to respond effectively is to understand all we can about this emerging technology and what steps we can take to protect ourselves,” Schiff said in a statement.

Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also said the intelligence community needs to provide Congress with a comprehensive report on deep fake technology so lawmakers know the risks it poses.

The letter comes after Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill Warner looking at bills to limit hate speech, have more data portability on social media MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFreedom to Compete Act would benefit many American workers Booker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Dems say attorney general undermined credibility with Trump talking point MORE (R-Fla.) began sounding the alarm about deep fake technology earlier this year.

During a Facebook and Twitter hearing last week, Warner voiced concern about such videos as compounding the ongoing fight to combat fake news online.