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 CoatsDems slam Trump for siding with Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi killing Dem senator demands public intelligence assessment on Khashoggi killing Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump 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 SchiffOn The Money: Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming | Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff | China agrees to 3-month freeze of auto tariffs | Dem to seek Deutsche Bank records of Trump's personal finances Schiff plans to obtain Deutsche Bank records of Trump's personal finances The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyProblem Solvers Dems urge Pelosi to publicly back three rules changes Problem Solvers Dems: We 'cannot support' Pelosi for Speaker 'at this time' 14 House Dems vow to withhold Speaker votes over rule reforms MORE (D-Fla.) and Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? GOP lawmakers call for autopsy on 'historic losses' Bipartisan group of lawmakers propose landmark carbon tax 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 WarnerThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioKevin McLaughlin tapped to serve as NRSC executive director for 2020 Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump Senators offer measure naming Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying 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.