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Deepfakes: Democracy’s Latest Threat

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News Analysis by Allison Reich and Rebecca West

Seeing is no longer believing as deepfakes swarm the internet. Deepfakes are computer-generated audio and images superimposed on one another to create a video of something that never happened. As the quality of deepfakes improves, it is only becoming harder and harder to differentiate the real from the fake. 

The article “What You Need to Know About Fake Video, Audio, and the 2020 Election” by Philip Ewing addresses how this technology could prove threatening to democracy as a whole as the 2020 election approaches.

The report highlights the potential havoc a deepfake could cause during an election. If that false content comes out hours before the polls open, it could sway voters before it’s debunked. The reverse scenario is equally frightening: what if a real video emerges, and the candidate claims it’s a fake? The U.S. government is taking steps to defend against election interference, but no preventive measures are currently in place for these scenarios.

(Source: Wired)

Deepfakes pose a news literacy issue at their core since they aim to deceive news consumers and undermine the public’s trust in real videos and verified news. As the public’s trust in the news media diminishes, so does their trust in democracy. 

Takeaway: Understanding the dangers of deepfakes is important, but limiting their proliferation is even more crucial. That means educating the public about their responsibility to determine the legitimacy of a video before sharing it. One approach to this issue is to arm the public with the tools to fact-check all content. Another is to make social media companies accountable for fake content posted on their platforms. As the article points out, it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach, but it’s clear that greater education and awareness of this phenomenon will help the public navigate the internet and stay clear of deepfakes.