Political Hoaxers Beware: These Scientists Have Declared War on Your Deepfakes

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The behind-the-scenes technological battle against political “deepfakes” ahead of the 2020 election is ramping up and there’s bad news for any trolls hoping to deploy the high quality and nearly undetectable video fakery: Researchers say they’ve developed a new technique to potentially weed out the phony videos.

Advances in artificial intelligence have put the power to create such videos—which can convincingly depict someone doing and saying things they’ve never done or said—in the hands of virtually anyone able to find and use a breed of specialized software first created by pornography hobbiests to make fake celebrity smut. With the 2020 presidential campaign gearing up, election watchdogs worry that deepfakes will be deployed rampantly in covert propaganda efforts by foreign adversaries and domestic political actors, setting up a replay of Russia’s 2016 election interference, but with multiple adversaries and the volume cranked up to 11.

The potential reach of political video hoaxes was demonstrated vividly last month, when a New York man uploaded a low-tech “shallowfake” hoax video onto his politics-themed Facebook page and it spread like wildfire on social media. The video, which falsely depicted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunkenly slurring her words, chalked up four million views and dominated the national conversation for days, with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani among those to spread it.

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