Google, Facebook, Twitter put on notice about deepfakes in 2020 election

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee wants to know how social media will handle deepfake videos ahead of the next presidential election.

Dhara Singh CNET News Intern
Dhara Singh is one of CNET's summer interns and a student at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She loves digging deep into the social issues that arise from everyday technology. Aside from wording around, you can catch her discussing Game of Thrones or on a random New York City adventure with her dSLR.
Dhara Singh
2 min read

A deepfake video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spread across the web earlier this year.

Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has sent letters asking Facebook , Google  and Twitter how they plan to deal with deepfakes ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Schiff's concerns follow the disinformation campaigns that spread across social media during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a statement released Monday. 

Deepfakes are fake videos or audio recordings that make people appear to say things they never actually said. It's the video equivalent of bogus images created with programs like Photoshop. Deepfake software is making it easier to manipulate video and increasingly harder to detect fakes. One technique enables people to create a deepfake using a single image, such as the Mona Lisa.

"Social media companies and platforms have taken a variety of actions since 2016 to address disinformation campaigns, but I am concerned they remain unprepared and vulnerable to sophisticated and determined adversaries," said Schiff, a Democrat from California. 

Schiff's letter to Facebook included questions such as whether it has a written policy on deepfake content, as well as whether the social media company is conducting research into techniques for detecting the manipulated content. On the other side of the spectrum, the representative's letter to Google asked if deepfake content is included in YouTube advertising. Lastly, to Twitter a question Schiff posed was how many views the recently doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received.

In June, a deepfake video Pelosi in which she appeared drunk spread across the internet. Congress is already looking to investigate deepfakes following the appearance of the doctored Pelosi video amid fears that deepfakes could escalate the fake news campaign during the 2020 US presidential race.

Some experts, on the other hand, see that the AI responsible for deepfakes has positive uses in the medical field. A research study published earlier this month shows the technology can be used to detect abnormalities in X-rays. 

Originally published July 15.
Update, July 16: Adds paragraph about medical research study.

Watch this: We're not ready for the deepfake revolution