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 CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' 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 Schiff10 questions for Robert Mueller Court filings show Trump, Cohen contacts amid hush money payments House passes annual intelligence bill MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyHouse Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify House approves bill raising minimum wage to per hour Omar introduces resolution affirming 'right to participate in boycotts' ahead of possible vote on anti-BDS bill MORE (D-Fla.) and Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDemocratic lawmaker pushes back on Castro's call to repeal law making illegal border crossings a crime The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz 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 WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAna Navarro lashes out at Rubio for calling outrage over Trump's 'go back' tweet 'self righteous' US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite 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.