BY CHARLIE DERR
It is time to ask yourself: Is my likeness protected property?
If you have spent time on TikTok recently, it is likely that you too have scrutinized Tom Cruise’s sleight-ofhand for signs of life. What you and I saw was not an aging actor parlaying his fame into social media clout, but rather new, sophisticated, and largely unregulated artificial intelligence programming designed to deceive. This is what’s known as a “deepfake,” a type of synthetic media in which a person’s likeness is imitated by powerful machine learning algorithms.
Major production houses have been improving this kind of AI for years— it’s the sort of facial scanning that resurrected Audrey Hepburn for chocolate ads way back in 2013. But the process has advanced tenfold in ensuing years, and the doppelgangers it can produce are now nearly indistinguishable from reality.
Enter “deepfake” as your query into any major search engine and you’ll immediately learn the technology’s most popular implementation—celebrity porn videos.
Deep faking has also been utilized to influence international media, discredit politicians, and spread disinformation about COVID-19. Presently, the technology requires several hours of audio and video footage to produce an effective facsimile; that’s why celebrities and politicians are preferred targets.
However, it’s likely that its rapid advancement will allow seamless identity theft using just your Instagram feed.
Despite the formation of a G7backed Global Partnership on AI, the United States government has yet to endorse its policies, and there is no federal law prohibiting the creation or distribution of deepfakes, although several bills have been introduced in Congress.
It has been left largely to social media conglomerates to self-police content and introduce or enforce disinformation countermeasures, and their traffic-driven profit models ensure that no serious action will be taken to dismantle fraudulent accounts.
Artificial intelligence has serious potential for damage. Beyond the insidious specter of fake news, we are just beginning to see what a world full of AI looks like—transhumanism, fully automated workplaces, algorithm overlords, and self-driving cars. It appears our government historically prefers to implement regulation after disruptions have begun to wreak havoc on our social systems, but it is imperative that in this case, the United States Congress acts now.
A regulatory board must be established for Internet-based media and technology, staffed with former industry members and ethics and policy experts with a singular goal of protecting humanity. The stakes are too high to stand by.