Cybersecurity

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 Portman (R-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Mike Rounds (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.{mosads}

A companion House version was also introduced Friday by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Pete King (R-N.Y.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Will Hurd (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 Schiff (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 Pelosi (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.

Tags Adam Schiff Brian Schatz Cory Gardner Derek Kilmer Gary Peters Joni Ernst Martin Heinrich Mike Rounds Nancy Pelosi Pete King Rob Portman Stephanie Murphy Will Hurd
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