‘Deep Fakes’ Could Be Used To Meddle In 2020 Election, Warns Top Democrat

Silhouette of a man watching television.
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So-called deep fake technology could be used by Russia and other countries to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, warned House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff Tuesday.

Bad actors could use this technology “to forge audio tapes, to forge video tapes, to make a far more disruptive impact,” Schiff told reporters, according to Reuters news agency. Furthermore, according to the top Democrat, the utilization of such technologies by malicious actors could make the American public doubtful of real footage.

“Even if you can disprove a fake video. If you can show it’s a forgery. The negative impression watching it… you can never erase,” he added.

Journalists and activists have long warned about the potentially damaging impact of so-called deep fakes. As Fortune reported, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and technology online disinformation campaigns are guaranteed to become much more effective.

Earlier this year, a journalist named Mikael Thalen discovered an unsettling deep fake video, a mashup of two actors: Jennifer Lawrence and Steve Buscemi. The video shows Lawrence speaking at the Golden Globes, but with Steve Buscemi’s face. Although clearly not made to sow discord or influence elections, the Buscemi-Lawrence deep fake video is indicative of how powerful this technology is.

According to Fortune, videos of former President Barack Obama saying things he never actually said went viral on social media as well.

As The Guardian reported, arguing that deep fakes are the next wave of disinformation warfare, a Dutch political party posted to its Facebook page a video of President Donald Trump. The video shows President Trump talking to the Dutch people about climate change. Thousands of social media users responded to the post, sharing the video on their own profile pages, only to discover later that it was a deep fake.

But according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, it is not only deep fakes that Americans should be worried about. Schiff, whose committee has been investigating allegations that President Trump colluded with official Moscow during the 2016 presidential election, warned that meddling could become even more aggressive in 2020.

According to Schiff, the 2018 midterm elections were uneventful when it comes to foreign intervention, bar a few cases of “spearfishing.” In 2020, however, things will be different, according to the top Democrat, and not only because of foreign meddling and deep fakes, but because of President Donald Trump.

Trump, according to Adam Schiff, has made the American democracy “very vulnerable” to foreign meddling.

“An electorate that is being acclimated to the idea that we’re all entitled to different truths, that makes our democracy very vulnerable,” he said.