Can Deepfake Technology Endanger World Peace?

A recent deepfake video of Tom Cruise has some analysts wondering if such technology has gotten so good that a deepfake video of a world leader could possibly lead to an inadvertent war. Below is an excerpt from one in depth article on the subject that was recently published by ABC Australia. Let me know in the comments below what you think – could this potentially threaten world peace and security or will societies be able to sufficiently rein in this technology in the near future?

By Mark Corcoran and Matt Henry, ABC Australia, 6/24/21

Weaponising deepfakes

It’s a possibility that keeps former CIA officer and disinformation specialist Matt Ferraro up at night.

When deepfake Tom started doing the rounds in Washington DC’s national security and intelligence community, some feared a dystopian future had taken one giant leap closer. Matt was one of them.

“I think that ‘terror’ is probably not too strong a word,” says Ferraro, who worked for America’s top spymaster, the director of National Intelligence, during the Bush and Obama administrations. 

“It’s because they realise how dangerous [deepfakes] are. It does seem like it’s really going to be a fundamental challenge to the information environment.”

When Ferraro started writing about deepfakes two years ago, most were easily detected by the naked eye. But that has changed dramatically in the past 18 months, he says. Today’s deepfakes have become “radically good” and now pose an imminent risk to the political system.

Early deepfakes, such as filmmaker and actor Jordan Peele’s 2018 Obama video — in which a synthesised likeness of the former president calls his successor a “total and complete dipshit” and then signs off with the straight-faced salutation “stay woke, bitches” — highlighted the potential for deepfakes to sow political chaos. But the visual sophistication was lacking, Ferraro says.

“It was mostly old video of Barack Obama with only his lips moving. You could tell that was fake. Now with the Tom Cruise deepfakes, it’s getting harder and harder”.

The spectre of a deepfaked political leader has already arisen in Africa, where a video of Gabon’s reclusive president looking odd triggered widespread allegations it was a deepfake. A week later the military attempted a coup.

In the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election, deepfake parody TV commercials of Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin were commissioned by non-profit organisation RepresentUs to warn about the fragility of democracy. But RepresentUs says American TV networks refused to run the videos as they were too realistic.

For Ferraro, the nightmare scenario would be a deepfake video of US President Joe Biden declaring war on North Korea, potentially released at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with hackers posting the video on the White House Twitter account. Ferraro suggests such a video could create mass confusion in a matter of minutes, potentially triggering conflict and even casualties before it could be debunked.

“If the North Koreans are 80 per cent sure it’s him — maybe only 20 per cent sure it’s him — are they willing to just sit back and take a missile strike that will end their regime? Probably not.”

If one person with a computer and an internet connection can make a convincing Tom Cruise, Ferraro fears the risks the technology could pose in the hands of well-resourced actors.

Read full article here.

2 thoughts on “Can Deepfake Technology Endanger World Peace?”

  1. “…will societies be able to sufficiently rein in this technology in the near future?”
    No. Of course not. That has never happened and will never happen. Technology genies don’t go back into their bottles. The only solution is for all of us to refuse to go along with the jingoism and warmongering propaganda, whether it comes from the Imperial City or anywhere else.
    You’re an important voice, Natylie. Keep it up!

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