House Intelligence panel to examine 'deepfake' videos in June

House Intelligence panel to examine 'deepfake' videos in June
© iStock

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 PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored MORE (D-Calif.) that made its way across Facebook and other social media platforms in late May.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.) have highlighted the videos' threat, which has received little attention so far in Congress.