Schiff, Murphy and Curbelo Request DNI Assess National Security Threats of “Deep Fakes”
Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats asking the Intelligence Community (IC) to assess the national security threats posed by “deep fake” technology. Deep fakes are realistic digital forgeries of videos, images, or audio created with cutting-edge machine learning techniques. They could be used by malicious actors to falsely portray people saying or doing things that never happened. In the letter, the Members ask Coats to evaluate the threat posed by deep fakes, to identify technologies the government or private sector could use to detect or deter forgeries, and to recommend actions Congress and the IC should take to address this emerging threat.
In the letter, the Members write: “By blurring the line between fact and fiction, deep fake technology could undermine public trust in recorded images and videos as objective depictions of reality… As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States.”
“Deep fakes could become a potent tool for hostile powers seeking to spread misinformation. The first step to help prepare the Intelligence Community, and the nation, to respond effectively is to understand all we can about this emerging technology and what steps we can take to protect ourselves,” said House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff. “It’s my hope that the DNI will quickly work to get this information to Congress to ensure that we are able to make informed public policy decisions.”
“Deep fake technology can be used by our enemies to undermine our nation’s security and democracy, which is why the Intelligence Community must provide a comprehensive report to Congress on the threat posed by deep fake technology. We need to know what countries have used it against U.S. interests, what the U.S. government is doing to address this national security threat, and what more the Intelligence Community needs to effectively counter the threat,” said Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“Deep fakes have the potential to disrupt every facet of our society and trigger dangerous international and domestic consequences,” Curbelo said. “With implications for national security, human rights, and public safety, the technological capabilities to produce this kind of propaganda targeting the United States and Americans around the world is unprecedented. As with any threat, our Intelligence Community must be prepared to combat deep fakes, be vigilant against them, and stand ready to protect our nation and the American people from enemies looking to exploit this new technology.”
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Daniel R. Coats
Dear Director Coats:
We request that the Intelligence Community report to Congress and the public about the implications of new technologies that allow malicious actors to fabricate audio, video and still images.
Hyper-realistic digital forgeries — popularly referred to as “deep fakes” — use sophisticated machine learning techniques to produce convincing depictions of individuals doing or saying things they never did, without their consent or knowledge. By blurring the line between fact and fiction, deep fake technology could undermine public trust in recorded images and videos as objective depictions of reality.
You have repeatedly raised the alarm about disinformation campaigns in our elections and other efforts to exacerbate political and social divisions in our society to weaken our nation. We are deeply concerned that deep fake technology could soon be deployed by malicious foreign actors.
Forged videos, images or audio could be used to target individuals for blackmail or for other nefarious purposes. Of greater concern for national security, they could also be used by foreign or domestic actors to spread misinformation. As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States.
Given the significant implications of these technologies and their rapid advancement, we believe that a thorough review by the Intelligence Community is appropriate, including an assessment of possible counter-measures and recommendations to Congress. Therefore, we request that you consult with the heads of the appropriate elements of the Intelligence Community to prepare a report to Congress, including an unclassified version, that includes:
(a) An assessment of how foreign governments, foreign intelligence services or foreign individuals could use deep fake technology to harm United States national security interests;
(b) A description of any confirmed or suspected use of deep fake technology by foreign governments or foreign individuals aimed at the United States that has already occurred to date;
(c) An identification of technological counter-measures that have been or could be developed and deployed by the United States Government or by the private sector to deter and detect the use of deep fakes, as well as analysis of the benefits, limitations and drawbacks, including privacy concerns, of such counter-technologies;
(d) An identification of the elements of the Intelligence Community that have, or should have, lead responsibility for monitoring the development of, use of and response to deep fake technology;
(e) Recommendations regarding whether the Intelligence Community requires additional legal authorities or financial resources to address the threat posed by deep fake technology;
(f) Recommendations to Congress regarding other actions we may take to counter the malicious use of deep fake technologies; and
(g) Any other information you believe appropriate.
We would appreciate your cooperation in producing this report as soon as feasible, but no later than December 14, 2018. Thank you for your assistance.
U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the House Armed Services Committee and Small Business Committee. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.