On September 14, 2021, a suicide bomber killed at least 11 people and wounded several others at a tea restaurant in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
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.
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