Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target 'deepfake' video threat

Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target 'deepfake' video threat
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A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Friday to assess and cut down on the threat posed by “deepfake” videos, which are created through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to manipulate original videos.

The Deepfake Report Act is sponsored by Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus co-founders Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate panel advances Trump's nominees to lead Air Force, Army Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall MORE (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year MORE (R-Iowa), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate Democrats accuse administration of burying climate change reports Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Whistleblower complaint concerns Trump talk with foreign leader: report MORE (D-Hawaii), Cory GardnerCory Scott Gardner The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's hurricane forecast controversy won't go away MORE (R-Colo.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersRepublicans to hand out 'baseball cards' mocking Gary Peters in Michigan Election security funds passed by Senate seen as welcome first step Democrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties MORE (D-Mich.) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (R-S.D.).

This legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an annual study of deepfakes and related content. It would also require the department to assess the AI technologies used to create deepfakes and propose changes, additions to, or new regulations around these technologies.

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A companion House version was also introduced Friday by Reps. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerModernize Congress to make it work for the people House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Wave of Washington state lawmakers call for impeachment proceedings against Trump MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingHere are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Obama's tan suit controversy hits 5-year anniversary MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyPelosi to introduce plan to lower cost of prescription drugs: report Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril Blue Dog Democrats urge action on election security MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGOP struggles with retirement wave Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House MORE (R-Texas).

Hurd is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which held a hearing earlier this month to examine the national security concerns involved with deepfakes. At the time, committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Trump asked Ukraine president to investigate Biden's son eight times in one phone call: reports Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe MORE (D-Calif.) described the videos as “nightmarish” to legislate. 

These types of videos have been in the spotlight recently after a video edited to make Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden blasts Trump, demands he release transcript of call with foreign leader Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week MORE (D-Calif.) appear drunk was posted online. While the video would not qualify as a deepfake, since it was slowed down with the quality of the audio changed and not manipulated using AI, it showed the dangers posed to politicians’ images by manipulated videos. 

The controversy was stoked by Facebook’s decision to only flag the video as fake, but not take it down. YouTube took the video down altogether. 

Portman said in a statement on Friday that addressing the evolving threats posed by deepfakes will “require policymakers to grapple with important questions related to civil liberties and privacy.”

Heinrich added that “any policy response needs to distinguish carefully between legitimate, protected speech and content that is intended to spread disinformation.”

Schatz, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, said the legislation will enable the federal government to take a role in addressing deepfakes. 

“We have already seen that fake content can do a lot of damage,” Schatz said in a statement. “This is not the moment to stand around and do nothing.”

Kilmer added that "Congress should act to ensure that the federal government truly understands the scope of this technology as it takes steps to protect against misinformation.”

At least one think tank supported the introduction of the bill. Daniel Castro, a top official at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said in a statement that “deep-fakes present significant new challenges to media consumption by disrupting the traditional notion that ‘seeing is believing,’ ” arguing for the need for policymakers to understand the threat. 

According to Kilmer's office, the bill is also endorsed by CompTIA. 

Updated at 2:24 PM.