Deception campaigns: US government plans to use deepfakes for propaganda

Experts are calling the plans "dangerous."
Loukia Papadopoulos
Deepfakes can be dangerous..jpg
Deepfakes can be dangerous

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The U.S. government could soon undertake internet propaganda and deception campaigns online using deepfake videos, according to a report by The Intercept published on Monday. 

The news outlet cited documents from Special Operations Command or SOCOM.

These initiates will include hacking internet-connected devices to listen in to assess foreign populations’ susceptibility to propaganda. Experts in the industry have not well received the move.

“When it comes to disinformation, the Pentagon should not be fighting fire with fire,” Chris Meserole, head of the Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, told The Intercept

“At a time when digital propaganda is on the rise globally, the U.S. should be doing everything it can to strengthen democracy by building support for shared notions of truth and reality. Deepfakes do the opposite. By casting doubt on the credibility of all content and information, whether real or synthetic, they ultimately erode the foundation of democracy itself.”

“If deepfakes are going to be leveraged for targeted military and intelligence operations, then their use needs to be subject to review and oversight,” Meserole said.

Last October, SOCOM added a troubling paragraph to its wish list document. The organization sought “a next-generation capability to collect disparate data through public and open source information streams such as social media, local media, etc., to enable MISO to craft and direct influence operations.”

Next-generation deepfake videos

It added that it wants to increase past internet deception efforts using “next-generation” deepfake videos. Special forces would make use of this faked footage to “generate messages and influence operations via non-traditional channels.”

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This type of activity can be pretty nefarious and get out of control quite quickly, especially if disseminated on social media platforms.

“If it’s a nontraditional media environment, I could imagine the form of manipulation getting pretty far before getting stopped or rebuked by some sort of local authority,” Max Rizzuto, a deepfakes researcher with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told The Intercept. 

“The capacity for societal harm is certainly there.”

Rizzuto added that the technology is very dangerous.

“You can’t moderate this tech the way we approach other sorts of content on the internet,” he concluded.

“Deepfakes as a technology have more in common with conversations around nuclear nonproliferation.”

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