“Deepfakes” Represent Next Frontier of Online Extremism

January 24, 2019 CEP Staff
CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid Sounds Alarm on Proliferation of Fake, Manipulated Videos

Fake and manipulated videos that have been aided by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), or “deepfakes,” present a growing problem for tech companies and are now drawing interest on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers from both parties, including Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), believe that fake videos are the next frontier in information warfare. Manipulated videos, which are then produced for and disseminated on social media, can be used for various egregious purposes. For example, terrorists could create doctored videos of American soldiers attacking civilians to rally support for military action and foreign governments could use them to show world leaders saying things they would never utter.

Speaking to The Hill, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid describes the “perfect storm” that has allowed this threat to flourish: a rapidly moving news cycle, information available at the click of a button and most important of all, complacent tech companies. Farid, when stating that we should “stop pretending like Silicon Valley is not exactly like every other industry in the world,” makes a salient point. Minus a shove, tech companies will not act against their bottom line, especially when viral, fake videos generate more revenue.

“In response to the threat of deepfake videos, tech companies are once again already deploying the same playbook that they use for extremist content on their platforms,” said CEP Executive Director David Ibsen. “When asked to respond, they will obfuscate. And when asked about solutions they claim to be implementing, there are no details. Just about the only thing they will do is promise to do better. Given the real-world implications of what will happen if the proliferation of fake videos continues going unchecked, they’ll have to do a lot better than that.”

In an interview with CBS News last March, Dr. Farid sounded the alarm on the ways fake videos were being used to manipulate the public.  

  • Dr. Farid, when asked if society was ready for the pending explosion of fake news stated: “No, we are absolutely not ready for this.  We are absolutely not ready for it, on so many different levels we’re not ready for it.”
  • Dr. Farid, when asked about what happens when fake videos are weaponized, stated: “I think the nightmare situation is a fake video of a world leader saying, I want nuclear weapons against a country. The other country reacts within minutes, seconds, and we have a global, nuclear war.”
  • Dr. Farid, on the future implications of fake news being left unchecked: “We have a fake news phenomenon that is not going away and so add to that fake images, fake audio, fake video and you have an explosion of what I would call an information war.”


Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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