Seeing the Round Corners

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September 24, 2019


In the opening columns of this series, readers most likely believed the likelihood of what was being described was developed for science fiction movies. Not so. In January of 2005, a television show – Numbers – began a five-year run. A mathematical genius worked with the FBI and developed algorithms to help solve “sophisticated” crimes. The technique of transference of facial points was as described earlier in this series.

Social divisions are are also subject to being targeted by fake news and deep fake videos The charges against police in killing of unarmed persons are fueled far more emotionally with deep fake news reports and deep fake videos than just verbal reports – written words alone would not be as persuasive. Those seeking to create greater divisions within communities on social issues seek out such opportunities, and yes, exposures of over zealous prosecutions have resulted in convictions of innocent persons. As the cliché goes – such efforts cut both ways. In 2018, Russian operators organized an event in Texas to protest radical Islam and a counter protest of that event, promoting Texas independence. The purpose was to show American social divisions to emphasize less capability in dealing with important policy questions and greater distraction caused by internal squabbles.

Undermining public safety is perhaps one of the scariest examples of the harm deep fake videos can inflict. Readers may recall the incident in early 2018 when human error resulted in an employee of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency issued a warning to the public about an incoming ballistic missile. The Russian Internet Research Agency was responsible for reporting a chemical disaster in Louisiana and an Ebola outbreak in Atlanta – the spread of both quickly ended because they lacked evidence and because the facts were easy to check. But just suppose a deep fake video purported to show the head of the Center for Disease Control describing terrifying facts and calling for a cover-up to keep the public calm. As the sophistication of the synthetic media/deep fake videos grows, “induced panic will be more damaging in the future.”

Undermining diplomacy offers purveyors of fake news and deep fake videos the broadest opportunity to damage international relations with the United States and its allies. As fake news and deep fake videos grow, capable government will be more on guard against a well-timed deep fake released to inflame public opinion during a summit meeting. Such a deep fake video could prevent one side from an agenda it would have or reaching an agreement. As an example of undermining diplomacy, a fake photograph was posted on the internet showing the Notre Dame cathedral in flames with Islamic men in the foreground reportedly laughing, touting success.

Jeopardizing national security is one of those headings so broad that it is mind boggling. Public safety, disrupting international relations, military activity, especially combat operations, all fall under the heading of jeopardizing national security. What ordinary citizens should be aware of is how deep fakes impact military activity, especially combat operations, and are particularly subject to fake news and deep fake videos “as a form of   disinformation supporting strategic, operational or even tactical deception.” The way the U. S. military occupied a civilian population as it did in Iraq and as we see has happened in Afghanistan, sets up a golden opportunity for fake news and deep fake video to make claims about civilians casualties, even if falsified evidence is necessary to do so.

U. S. intelligence agencies learned the hard way when dealing with the Snowden leaks in 2013 just how harmful deep fakes can be. Reports on a particular capability that the U. S. Intelligence Community has could lead to “significant pressure to limit or abolish that capability both from an internal U. S. prospective and in terms of diplomatic relations.” Obviously, such internal information will not be released to the public, but what the ordinary public citizen must take note of is creators of fake news and deep fake videos create distractions to such a harmful level it may lead a society to limit what an agency is authorized to do.

Next week, undermining journalism.

The reader’s comments or questions are always welcome.  E-mail me at The mission of Seeing the Round Corners is to evoke a thought process and interest in becoming better informed and to be skeptical of the headline-grabbing purveyors of information. The writer is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at