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Deepfakes aren't a tech problem. They're a power problem

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24.06.2019

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, very few predicted the degree to which online misinformation would disrupt the democratic process. Now, as we edge closer to 2020, there is a heightened sense of vigilance around new threats to truth in our already fragile information ecosystem.

At the top of the list of concerns is no longer Russian bots, but deepfakes, the artifical intelligence-manipulated media that can make people appear to do or say things that they never did or said.

The threat is being taken so seriously that last Thursday, the House intelligence committee held Congress’s first hearing on the subject. In his opening remarks, Representative Adam Schiff, the committee chairman, talked of society being “on the cusp of a technological revolution” that will qualitatively transform how fake news is made. He spoke of “advances in AI” that will make it possible to compromise election campaigns. He made repeated mention of how better algorithms and data will make it extremely difficult to verify the veracity of images, videos, audio or text.

In essence, he framed the problem of doctored media as a new threat caused by sophisticated emerging technologies.

Not that Schiff’s alone. The broader discourse around fake content has become increasingly focused on AI-generated content, where cutting-edge machine learning techniques are used to create uncanny copies of people’s faces, voices and writing styles. But as technologically impressive as these new techniques are, I worry that focusing on the “state of the art” is a distraction from a deeper problem.

To understand why, consider the most high-profile example of manipulated media to spread online to date: the doctored video of........

© The Guardian