Rubio issues warning about dangers of ‘deepfake’ videos ahead of midterms


DCNFKyle Perisic, DCNF

Videos utilizing technology that creates a convincing, lifelike digital replicant of an individual poses a serious threat, Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio warned on Monday.

Image: Marco Rubio, DCNF

“It’s only a matter of time before foreign intelligence agencies use high-tech deception of ‘deepfake’ videos to try & undermine our democracy, influence our elections & further divide our society. I’ve been warning about this for some time,” Rubio wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

Rubio linked in the tweet to an Associated Press article that details the disturbing potential for fake videos to manipulate viewers into believing that what they’re watching is real.

Deepfake videos use technology that utilizes lifelike digital human puppets created with facial mapping that looks and moves nearly identically to their real-life counterparts — with blinking being the one exception.

With the advances in voice-over technology, coupled with deepfake videos, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between a real video and a fake one, experts warn.

In a BuzzFeed video detailing the potential dangers of deepfake videos, a digital recreation of former President Barack Obama is seen calling President Donald Trump a “total and complete dipsh*t.”

The potential dangers of this technology range from comedic sketches to subverting Western elections, experts warned.

“I expect that here in the United States we will start to see this content in the upcoming midterms and national election two years from now,” said a Dartmouth College digital forensics expert, Hany Farid. “The technology, of course, knows no borders, so I expect the impact to ripple around the globe.”

Not only can adversaries use deepfake videos to spread propaganda and fake news, they can use the fear of deepfake videos to dismiss any real video that might show something damaging, Farid warned.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been warning about the dangers of deepfake videos, saying they will help spread fake news and propaganda.

“It’s a weapon that could be used — timed appropriately and placed appropriately — in the same way fake news is used, except in a video form, which could create real chaos and instability on the eve of an election or a major decision of any sort,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

While Congress works to fight deepfake videos, computer scientists are making some progress to automatically recognize them.

“We managed to train several neural networks that are indeed pretty good at figuring out forged images/videos. … Ideally, we’re imagining automated methods in a browser or social media platform to tell what’s fake and what’s real,” said Matthias Niessner, who runs the Visual Computing Lab at Technical University Munich.

While some computers are able to spot the difference between real and fake, humans are not. In Niessner’s research, he found that people are generally unable to distinguish between real and deepfake videos.

“Essentially, we have a user study where we asked people try to spot the difference — turns out we humans are not so great at it,” he told BuzzFeed News in April.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KylePerisic

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