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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 PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichBottom line Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Senate Democrats seek removal of controversial public lands head after nomination withdrawal MORE (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBiden to campaign in Iowa for first time since winning nomination The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden search for undecided voters in final stretch Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days MORE (R-Iowa), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Hawaii), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Trump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in MORE (R-Colo.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersThe Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Jaime Harrison raises million in two weeks for South Carolina Senate bid BlackPAC rolls out Senate race endorsements for the first time MORE (D-Mich.) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsDuring pandemic, 'telehealth' emerging as important lifeline to connect patients with caregivers The Hill's Campaign Report: Team Trump on defense over president's comments on white supremacy Trump says Proud Boys should 'stand down' after backlash to debate comments 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 KilmerHillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments House approves legislation to send cybersecurity resources to state, local governments Is Congress reasserting itself? MORE (D-Wash.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program Trump holds private funeral service for brother Robert Trump at White House  MORE (R-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Bank lobbying group launches ad backing Collins reelection bid House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat MORE (D-Fla.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump predicts GOP will win the House Changing suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Bottom line 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 SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump 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 PelosiOn The Money: Businesses, wealthy brace for Biden tax hikes | Dow falls more than 650 points as COVID-19 cases rise, stimulus hopes fade | Kudlow doesn't expect Trump to release detailed economic plan before election Overnight Health Care: US sets a new record for average daily coronavirus cases | Meadows on pandemic response: 'We're not going to control it' | Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy Gaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump 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.