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Political media needs to get real about deepfakes

Illustration by Kate Walker

Political media needs to get real about deepfakes


The Future. As AI becomes more accessible and easier to use, upcoming elections are likely to be inundated with fake videos and audio recordings to tarnish politicians’ reputations. Considering the headaches voters have already gone through with online misinformation, the rise of deepfakes may take things to another level… unless tech platforms can figure out how to to catch and take down fabricated content.

Elections are about to get even more fraught with the rise of deepfakes, reports Vanity Fair.

  • In the run-up to Chicago’s mayoral election, a fake news organization called Chicago Lakefront News tweeted out a fake recording of candidate Paul Vallas that was seen widely before being taken down.
  • Fact-checking nonprofit PolitiFact called out a fake MSNBC interview with Elizabeth Warren that made it seem like she said that Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
  • And, not surprisingly, fake videos of President Biden run rampant on social media, crafting controversial comments around issues such as drugs to transgender rights.

To make things even more complicated, some politicians are just embracing deepfake technology as a means to really get their face out there.

Visual literacy
Newsrooms are preparing for the deluge of fabricated content.

  • Pod Save America showed a deepfake of Biden to show what it looks like when a fake video comes across your timeline.
  • The Atlantic, The Verge, and BuzzFeed News are reporting on how deepfakes could impact coming election cycles and are training on how to vet for AI-generated content.
  • PolitiFact is staffing up to better address a potentially major increase in deepfakes to sift through.

The key will be in how to vet for fake content quickly — in the world of political journalism, breaking a story is the goal, so the drive to be first will constantly be in tension with making sure a video is real.

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