Rubio: 'Deep Fakes' Represent Next Wave of Tech Attacks on Elections

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he thinks so-called "Deep Fakes" will be the vehicle for the next wave of attacks on America and Western Democracies and elections. 

The current wave of attacks has been the use of social media by Russia, both via bogus content and ads, to meddle with the U.S. elections.

Rubio's warning came in a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing Tuesday (May 15) for William Evanina to be the next director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC). 

Evanina said he had not heard of the term, which Rubio explained was the use of AI, facial mapping and other techniques to manipulate sound and video to make someone appear to be doing something they aren't.

Rubio said part of the threat was a media environment "where false claims even ones that are totally preposterous can easily be spread on social media and often the media, under tremendous pressure to deliver clicks on a website or ratings on their television stations through outrage, are quick to jump on it."

He asked Evanina to imagine: "A fake video of an American politician using a racial epithet or taking a bribe or anything of that nature. They could use a fake video of a U.S. soldier massacring civilians overseas, they could use a fake video of a U.S. official admitting a secret plan to do some conspiracy theory of some kind, they could use a fake video of a prominent official discussing some sort of impending disaster that could so panic. And imagine a compelling video like this produced on the eve of an election or a few days before a major public policy decision with a culture that's already - has already a kind of a built-in bias towards believing outrageous things, a media quick that is quick to promulgate it and spread it. And, of course, the social media where you can't stop its spread."

Rubio said the next wave would be "the ability to produce fake videos that can only be determined to be fake after extensive analytical analysis and by then the election is over and millions of Americans have seen an image they want to believe anyway because of their preconceived bias against that individual."

Evanina said that while he didn't know the term, "the intelligence community and federal law enforcement is actively working to not only understand the complexities and capabilities of adversaries but what from a predictive analysis perspective we may face going forward particularly with the election this fall as well as in 2020."  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.