U.S. Special Ops Wants to Use Deepfakes
With the entry into the public consciousness of “deepfaked” impersonation videos came the inevitable concern from policymakers around the world, including in the United States. Congresspersons Adam Schiff, Stephanie Murphy, and Carlos Curbelo sent a letter (PDF) to the Director of National Intelligence in 2018 warning that “by blurring the line between fact and fiction, deep fake technology could undermine public trust”. Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio followed up a year later with concern that “deepfakes pose an especially grave threat to the public’s trust in the information it consumes” which “will have a corrosive impact” on democracy. Well, what they actually said was “our democracy”, but the principle would certainly apply to any democracy. A 2021 report by the Department of Homeland Security (PDF) concludes that the “mere existence of deepfakes could undermine the primacy of credibility and authority of traditional social institutions”.
Sam Biddle, reporting this week for the Intercept:
U.S. Special Operations Command, responsible for some of the country’s most secretive military endeavors, is gearing up to conduct internet propaganda and deception campaigns online using deepfake videos, according to federal contracting documents reviewed by The Intercept.
The plans, which also describe hacking internet-connected devices to eavesdrop in order to assess foreign populations’ susceptibility to propaganda, come at a time of intense global debate over technologically sophisticated “disinformation” campaigns, their effectiveness, and the ethics of their use.
Deepfakes undermine trust and will corrode democracy — and it is important for SOCOM to get started using them as quickly as possible.