WASHINGTON, D.C.- On Thursday the Heritage Foundation hosted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to speak on the topic of “Deep Fakes” followed by a panel discussion of experts. The event was moderated by Senior Research Fellow of Technology at Heritage, Klon Kitchen.
“We, in our political culture today, are largely a reactive nation," began the senator. "We react to things after they happen. Something bad happens and we react to it. This is an effort to get ahead of something, to sort of see what the capabilities are, see what the trends in society are, put them together and anticipate how bad actors could utilize technology and technologically advance in the years to come."
We are here to discuss “deep fakes,’ said Rubio. Ninety-nine percent of the American population probably doesn’t know what ‘deep fakes’ are according to Sen. Rubio, however they have been watching them for years in sci-fi movies. “But never before have we seen that kind of capability become available right off the shelf,” said Sen. Rubio. We are seeing trends in the 21st century and the weaponization of information.
Essentially ‘deep fakes’ are photos or videos generated, of a person, saying or doing something that said person never actually said or did.
“What we have never had in human history is the ability to disseminate information so rapidly, so instantaneously, and for it to have an impact on so many people, before you are capable of reacting to it...Now you can reach millions of people in seconds, and if it isn’t true by the time you knock it down false information can takes weeks or even months, or maybe never,” said Rubio.
“So what does that mean in the 21st century?” he asked.
This affects us in aspects of everyday life from job searches to national security. A disgruntled employee or competitor can post fake videos that could cripple a business, hurt potential employees chances at landing a job, or crush a political opponent.
A politician could similarly release a damaging video of his competitor to a media outlet. Imagine if this scenario occurred the night before an election. Denying the validity of that which was portrayed in a ‘fake video’ leaked to a media outlet, will most likely not stop a media outlet from running it.
“But what about a nation state…with capabilities that exceed that of any political party?” asked Rubio, bringing up the timely issue of Russia. “I know for a fact that the Russian federation at the command of Vladimir Putin tried to sow instability and chaos in American politics in 2016. Not necessarily, as some might report for purposes of electing one candidate over another. His primary goal was to ensure that the next president of the United States…would be facing a cloud of controversy for weeks and years to come…No matter who won that election we would be dealing with a Russia problem right now. Maybe a different one, but we would be dealing with one,” said the senator.
If someone could effectively get into the electoral system and change votes and registration, casting doubt upon the validity of the presidential election for a significant amount of the population, in addition to the potential for someone to release a fake video that could flip enough votes to cost a candidate an election.
“…You put all that together and what you have is not a threat to our elections, but a threat to our republic, a constitutional crisis unlike we have ever faced in the history of this country,” said Rubio.
“The capability to do all of this is real, it exists now, the willingness exists now, all that is missing is the execution, and we are not ready for it, we are not ready for it, not as people, not as a political branch, not as a media, not as country. We are not ready for this threat,” he warned.
“Maybe it will be Russia, they are the likeliest culprit, but it could be anybody…One of the ironies of the 21stcentury is that technology has made it cheaper than ever to be bad."
A very realistic fake video has the potential to “undermine our elections” and throw our country into great crisis, Rubio warned in his parting thoughts.