Deepfake technology has the possibility to create an abundance of new opportunities in the field of education, medicine, the arts, and even politics. In fact, deepfakes have even been used for “positive campaigning” in an election by a political leader, in the 2020 Legislative Assembly elections in Delhi, who manipulated a video to address new ethnic groups in his constituency.
However, deepfake technology can also cause significant harm to democracy – and truth. Deepfakes can influence a democratic process through the direct use of false material to change an election result, as well as worsen pre-existing social divisions and affect citizen’s trust in the media, institutions, and public authorities. In January 2021, social media users and avid supporters of President Donald Trump, claimed that a video in which the outgoing president acknowledged President-elect Biden’s victory was a deepfake. However, it was swiftly confirmed by the White House that the video was categorically not a deepfake. As mentioned in earlier units, this weaponization of deepfakes as an ‘excuse’ has the potential to cause real damage.
There are very few legal or policy solutions to this challenge. Governments, international bodies, as well as tech professionals are scrambling to find the best possible approaches to defend democracies and democratic institutions. Indeed, any policy responses seeking to address deepfakes would likely face constitutional and other legal challenges, along with the technical complications of how to detect deepfakes in the first place.
So, some key questions to ask are: What is the maturity of deepfake detection technology? What can be done to educate the public about deepfakes? Should manipulated media be marked or labeled? What should the roles of media outlets and social media companies be in detecting and moderating content that has been altered or falsified? And many, many, more.
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