Seeing the Round Corners

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September 17, 2019


Today we will continue with the harmful uses of deep fake technology.

Harm to society addresses the capacity to harm society in a number of ways, to name a few:

  • fake video featuring public officials taking bribes, displaying racism or engaging in adultery;
  • politicians and other government officials could appear in locations where they were not, saying or doing horrific things that they did not do;
  • fake videos could place them in meetings with spies or criminals, launching public outrage, criminal investigations, or both;
  • soldiers could be shown murdering innocent civilians in a war zone, precipitating waves of violence and even strategic harms to a war effort;
  • a deep fake might falsely depict a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man while shouting racial epithets; and
  • a fake audio clip might “reveal” criminal behavior by a candidate on the eve of an election when there’s no time for the candidate to refute the clip.


Harmful uses of deep-fake technology are many, with harm to society of “systemic dimensions.”

Distortion of democratic discourse:  Important policy questions which the basis is for a “shared universe of facts and truths supported by empirical evidence.” Whether climate change is real is one example of how efforts to solve national and global problems can become enmeshed in needless first order questions. Even data statistics have come to be looked on as elitist.’’

Unfortunately, deep fake may led to individuals living “in their own subjective realities when beliefs can be supported by manufactured ‘facts’.” “When basic empirical insights provoke heated contestation, democratic discourse cannot proceed on a sustained basis.”

Manipulation of elections:  Probably the most disturbing form of sabotage, derived by the distribution of a damaging but false video or audio about a candidate. An election outcome can be swayed by distribution of such video with enough time for the fake to circulate but with not enough time for a victim to circulate a rebuttal.

The U. S. presidential election of 2016 was not the only presidential election to be subjected to deep fake technology. The 2017 presidential election in France was targeted by Russians to prevent the election of Emmanuel Macron as president. It failed for a number of reasons:  “poor trade craft making it easy to trace the attack; smart defensive work by the Macron team which planted their own false documents throughout their own system to create a smokescreen of distrust; a lack of sufficiently provocative material despite an effort by the Russians to engineer scandal by altering some of the documents prior to release; and mismanagement of the timing of the document dump, leaving enough time for the Macron team and the Media to discover and point out all the flaws.”  No doubt much was learned by the French from the U. S. election scandal.

The other side of the coin is that states may develop such tactics as the Russians used in the U. S. 2016 presidential election and the French 2017 presidential election. Such interventions as they are now referred to for lack of a better name as things now stand, if executed and well timed are inevitably likely to sway an outcome sooner or later. The sad result is the shadow of illegitimacy cast over the election process itself.

Erosion of trust in significant public and private institutions:  Trust in public and private institutions will become hard to maintain as deep fakes have the effect of erosion of such trust. Pubic institutions such as in elected officials, appointed officials, judges, juries, legislators, staffers and agencies can expect to be targets of deep fakes. Particularly where strong narratives of distrust already exist, such as with ICE and the President’s family, “provocative deep fakes will find a primed audience.”

Private sector institutions such as religious, Planned Parenthood and the NRA, any institution that has a voice or role in society, is a target for deep fakes. 

Next week, exacerbating social divisions.

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