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 PortmanGOP senator to donate 2 months of salary in coronavirus fight Senators pen op-ed calling for remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on MORE (R-Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote MORE (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment MORE (R-Iowa), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzLawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate MORE (D-Hawaii), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRomney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Markets expected to plunge amid partisan squabbling MORE (R-Colo.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersUnprecedented health crisis called for historic expansion of unemployment insurance Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Poll: Biden has small lead over Trump in Michigan MORE (D-Mich.) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsSenate GOP expects vote on third coronavirus package next week Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' 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 KilmerWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingJohn Kerry: GOP lawmaker against coronavirus package 'tested positive for being an ---hole' Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyPelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Sunday shows preview: State governors and top medical officials prepare for next week of COVID-19 response Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 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 SchiffDemocrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response Schiff drafting legislation to set up 9/11-style commission to review coronavirus response Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner 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 PelosiSchumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes McConnell: Pelosi trying to 'jam' Senate on fourth coronavirus relief bill 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.