While Deepfakes are an issue that most people have probably never heard of, it is a term that almost every American will be familiar with, likely by the 2020 election and definitely by the 2024 election. It is an issue that could have major national security implications and a major impact in upcoming elections.
Deepfakes are when a creator takes an existing video and makes it look like the person on camera is saying something that they didn’t actually say or performing an act that didn’t actually happen. With a simple algorithm, anyone can create content that looks like the real thing. While most of these videos so far are clearly fake, the technology is getting better and better and within the next few months you won’t be able to tell the difference, at least right away.
Anyone can take a speech from a politician or celebrity, turn it into a Deepfake and have them say or do something that ends up destroying their life. Anyone can now create a fake sex tape of a celebrity or show a politician making a racial comment. The truth would eventually come out but by then it would be too late. That image would already be burned into your mind. That celebrity or politician’s career would have already been destroyed.
One of the most recent and most notable Deepfakes puts Steve Buscemi’s head on to Jennifer Lawrence’s body. The creators of the Deepfake took a press conference that Jennifer Lawrence was giving at the Golden Globes and replaces her head with Steve Buscemi’s head. If you didn’t know both of those actors, you would just assume that it’s a very awkward looking woman. While this was done for fun, it shows the type of scary technology that is on the horizon. It wouldn’t have been hard to have her make a comment that ended up destroying her career if the creators really wanted to.
One of the biggest dangers for us starting in 2020 and beyond, is someone creating a Deepfake of someone that we already don’t support, that only confirms what we already believe. Within hours we likely will discover that this video was fake, but that image will already be burned into our minds. It could be a video of President Trump meeting with Putin and saying something like “Thank you for helping me win this election. After the next election I’ll have more leeway” or a politician making a racist remark. Because it would only be confirming what half of the country already believes, half of the country will insist that this is even more proof of Russian collusion or that that politician is a racist. By the time the truth gets out, half of the country would already believe that they did get confirmation that there was Russian collusion or that the candidate running is a racist.
It wouldn’t be much harder for a war to start over a fake security alert and to cause mass panic. It wouldn’t be hard for a country such as China or a terrorist group to hack into our pentagon and create a fake alert that someone has just launched missiles at the United States. We would be required to respond to a threat of that magnitude. Before you know it, the public is panicking and we are at war over a video that turned out to be fake.
With a society that is so quick to jump to condemn those that we already disagree with even before the evidence is released, if we are not careful, Deepfakes will only accelerate the disintegration of our society. I want to take this time to urge everyone to use caution when sharing stories, especially on social media. Our first reaction isn’t always the correct one.