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 PortmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Iowa), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCensus workers prepare to go door-knocking in pandemic Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (D-Hawaii), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate MORE (R-Colo.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHealth care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (D-Mich.) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Republican rift opens up over qualified immunity for police 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 KilmerDemocrats debate how and when to get House back in action Cornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Tech groups call on Congress to boost state funds for cybersecurity during pandemic MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingCheney clashes with Trump Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney On The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyModerate House Democrats introduce bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting coronavirus pandemic Encouraging a safe business environment can help drive America's recovery The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Key impeachment witness retires | Duckworth presses for information | Subpanel advances defense measure | Democrats press for end to military transgender ban Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening 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 SchiffSunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' 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 PelosiAs coronavirus surges, Trump tries to dismantle healthcare for millions Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move 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.