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 CoatsEx-Trump official says intel community's testimony interfered in US-North Korea talks Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with 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 SchiffWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' Schiff: 'Hard to imagine a poorer case' than Trump's on emergency declaration MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyTrump snubs highlight Pelosi’s grip on Dems On The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks MORE (D-Fla.) and Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor GOP rep will ‘probably’ support measure to back Paris climate pact 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 WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio in Colombia to push for delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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.