House Intelligence panel to examine 'deepfake' videos in June

House Intelligence panel to examine 'deepfake' videos in June
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The House Intelligence Committee has slated a hearing in June that will examine a series of national security matters, including the threat of videos manipulated by artificial intelligence (AI) that look strikingly real, a panel aide said.

The congressional hearing on June 13 will be one of the first to primarily focus on so-called deepfakes, which experts and lawmakers say pose a major disinformation threat heading into the 2020 election. 

The hearing comes amid a spotlight on a fake video of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Calif.) that made its way across Facebook and other social media platforms in late May.

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This video, which was viewed millions of times, was edited in a way that made her appear to slur her words. While the video was not made with advanced AI technology, experts say that will be the next step in the disinformation threat.

The deepfake technology is growing more sophisticated and prevalent, and average internet users will eventually be able to create doctored videos that will be impossible for the naked eye to distinguish from real ones.

Experts have warned The Hill that such videos could threaten the integrity of an election if, for example, one falsely depicting candidates making controversial statements goes viral on the eve of an election.

Top U.S. intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before Congress earlier this year that hostile foreign actors are expected to try to weaponize deepfakes to sow discord and breed doubt.

“Adversaries and strategic competitors probably will attempt to use deep fakes or similar machine-learning technologies to create convincing—but false—image, audio, and video files to augment influence campaigns directed against the United States and our allies and partners,” reads the intelligence community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, which was released in January.

The fear of such disinformation in the upcoming presidential election comes after Russia wreaked havoc in the 2016 election through hacks and fake posts on social media.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told The Hill in April that foreign and domestic actors could “wreak havoc” with the technology during elections.

“Now with deepfake technology, the Russians can push out fake audio or fake video that is indistinguishable from being real. They can make candidates for office say things they’ve never said,” Schiff said.

Schiff also said at the time that one of his chief concerns in 2016 was whether WikiLeaks added forged documents to the authentic ones it published after emails were stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

He said faked videos could be “far more debilitating,” and even have “an election-altering impact.”

Schiff, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE (R-Fla.) have highlighted the videos' threat, which has received little attention so far in Congress.