Congress wrestles with 'deepfake' threat to Facebook

Two senators highlighted the dangers of AI-manipulated video at Wednesday's hearing.

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Social Media Hearing

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says the company is engaged on the problem of deepfakes.

Tom Williams

A pair of senators are worried about deepfakes and want to know what Facebook is doing about it.

Sens. Angus King, a Maine independent, and James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, asked Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday about the phenomenon of video manipulated by artificial intelligence, noting that deepfakes raise the issue of people being unable to believe what they see. 

"Is there a technological way that you can determine that a video has been manipulated in that way and tag it so that people, on Facebook if they see a video, it'll be 'Warning, this has been manipulated in a way that may be misleading'?" asked King, noting that users need "the maximum amount of information" without falling into censorship.

Watch this: Senate takes on deep fakes with Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey

Sandberg assured him that Facebook is investing in technology and people to combat the problem.

Lankford circled back to deepfakes, expressing his appreciation for Facebook's "engagement" on the issue.

"Americans can typically trust what they see and suddenly -- in video -- they can no longer trust what they see because of the opportunity to be able to create video that's entirely different to anything in reality has now actually come," he said.

Deepfakes are AI-generated videos that typically place one person's face onto the body of another. They have caused controversy in the past and Reddit cracked down on deepfake pornography earlier this year. Motherboard noted that creating an algorithm for making deepfake videos is relatively easy, even for someone with relatively little tech knowledge.

Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were questioned by senators on Wednesday about what the companies are doing to reduce the effect of internet trolls, false stories and provocateurs who incite violence.