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Monday, March 8th, 2021

Senate advances legislation directing DHS to examine threats of deepfakes

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The U.S. Senate advanced a bill that would direct the Department of Homeland Security to examine the threats deepfakes pose to national security and elections.

Deepfake is a technology where hackers are able to alter video to create images or real people. The videos can then use these fake images to generate fake content.

“As AI rapidly becomes an intrinsic part of our economy and society, AI-based threats, such as deepfakes, have become an increasing threat to our democracy,” Sen. Rob Portman, who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “Addressing the challenges posed by deepfakes will require policymakers to grapple with important questions related to civil liberties and privacy. This bill prepares our country to answer those questions and address concerns by ensuring we have a sound understanding of this issue. As concerns with deepfakes grow by the day, I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing this bipartisan legislation and hope the House will take it up soon.”

The bill, the Deepfake Report Act, was also sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

“Fake content can damage our national security and undermine our democracy,” Schatz said. “Our bill, which passed the Senate today, directs the federal government to learn more about the scope of deepfake technology. It’s an important first step in fighting disinformation.”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“AI certainly provides a number of benefits, but some of its applications—like deepfakes—are misleading folks. This poses not only a threat to civil liberties but to our national security,” said Senator Ernst. “As our federal agencies work to understand deepfakes, it’s important we streamline the information-gathering process and share resources in order to prevent duplicative efforts. The Senate has acted in a decisive way on our bipartisan bill, and I hope to see the House follow suit.”

Deepfakes can threaten national security as well as our elections.

“The rise of deepfakes for nefarious use is very concerning,” Rounds said. “For example, we know that bad actors have and will continue to try to influence our elections by manipulating what we see online. We must make sure we are taking steps to prevent that from occurring. By passing our legislation, the Senate took a positive step toward helping us better understand deepfakes so we can protect Americans from potentially damaging disinformation.”

Gardner said deepfakes can be used to manipulate reality and spread misinformation quickly.

“In an era where we have more information available at our fingertips than ever, we have to be vigilant about making sure that information is reliable and true in whichever form it takes. The Senate passing this bipartisan, historic legislation is a crucial first step toward the United States having a better understanding of how to approach the issues with technologies like deepfakes,” Gardner said.