US lawmakers warn spy chief that ‘deep fakes’ are a national security threat

What once sounded like science fiction is now a reality: creating almost-perfectly faked videos of people saying things they never did.

Surprise: Now they’re a reality, thanks to modern computing power and the power to instantly share it on the world’s social stage.

But U.S. lawmakers are worried that these faked videos could be used by the enemy to harm national security.

If you’re unaware, “deep fakes” are digitally manipulated videos — which, using existing footage mixed with artificial intelligence and machine learning, can be made to look like, or close to, the real thing.

Unsurprisingly, one of the first uses of deep fake videos was for porn — by superimposing faces onto others.

But now, lawmakers think that deep fakes could be used as part of wider disinformation campaigns — known to be a tactic of adversarial nation states like Russia — in an effort to sway elections or spread false news.

“Deep fakes could become a potent tool for hostile powers seeking to spread misinformation,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a letter to Dan Coats, director of national intelligence.

“As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States,” said the letter, co-signed by Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

The lawmakers have a point. In recent years, disinformation has risen and was a major factor in the meddling during the 2016 presidential election. Now, instead of false and misleading news, it is fake videos of politicians throwing shade at their rivals — or worse.

Take this deep fake video — created by BuzzFeed News of what appears to be former President Obama calling President Trump a “dipshit” — to show how easy it is.

A deep fake video created by BuzzFeed News to show how easy it is to create false and misleading videos.

What might be good fun on one hand, on the other could have a major effect on those who are none the wiser.

Schiff, Murphy and Curbelo want the director of national intelligence — who oversees the nation’s intelligence community — to report back on its assessment of how deep fake technology could harm national security interests, and if there are countermeasures to protect against foreign influence — and their limitations.

The DNI’s office was asked to report back to Congress by mid-December.

ODNI spokesperson Charles Carithers told TechCrunch: “We have received the letter and will respond to Reps. Schiff, Murphy and Curbelo.”