Experts study 2020 candidates to offset ‘deepfake’ threat
Experts are studying the unique mannerisms that define each presidential candidate ahead of 2020 with the hope that such information could help curb the online spread of fake videos known as deepfakes.
Experts have long warned that deepfakes, videos manipulated with artificial intelligence that look strikingly real, pose a risk heading into the presidential election, particularly as the technology grows increasingly more sophisticated and accessible on the internet.
How experts are addressing the problem: Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said this week he worries deepfakes will be used to sow discord and chaos in the 2020 election.
“So what we’ve been doing is building what we call soft biometric models for all of the presidential candidates. Unfortunately there’s a lot of them,” Farid said, according to a transcript of a panel discussion with the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).
Farid cited former President Obama’s distinct style of speaking to explain how experts can distinguish real from fake videos, pointing to a forged viral video BuzzFeed released last year in which Obama made a number of controversial comments, when actually it was comedian Jordan Peele speaking.
“So the basic ideas, like with President Obama, is we’ve been analyzing hours and hours of his videos, and we’ve been doing this for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and all of the candidates. We’ve been mapping out particular talking styles of the candidates,” Farid added.
“[There is a] link between what Obama says and how he says it, and we build what we call soft biometrics that we then can [use to] analyze a deepfake and say, ‘Oh, in that video, the mouth, which is synthesized to be consistent with Jordan Peele’s voice, is in some ways decoupled from the rest of the head. It’s physically not correct,'” Farid said.
Newspapers, networks and even campaigns, Farid hopes, will be able to lean on experts like him to analyze videos and verify if they are genuine or not.
Lawmakers raise deepfake alarm: Farid’s comments came during a panel discussion with other experts as well as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the few Capitol Hill lawmakers at the forefront of the issue.
Schiff warned that even if a deepfake is disproven, the negative impact could have already run its course — a factor that raises the risk if a deepfake video runs rampant in the lead-up to election day.
Schiff and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have pressed the intelligence community to assess the threat of deepfakes, though the response Director of National Security Dan Coats gave to Schiff and other lawmakers is currently classified.