Last week a bill l have been working on for the last eight months was introduced to the House of Representatives. The Deepfakes Accountability Act seeks to protect the lives of everyday Americans by giving us control of our online image. But what are deepfakes?
Deepfake video is the latest advancement in visual manipulation technologies, but it is not new as it seems — computer scientists note that the first mass-market visual modification technology was actually Photoshop, which was originally released in 1990. But what makes deepfakes different is that they are produced using open source A.I. software, combining facial mapping and audio augmentation to create a completely new property. The videos produced in this way place people in places they have never been, saying things they have never said.
If someone were to make deepfake pornographic content of me, it would undermine public trust and derail my career.
The emergence of deepfakes was brought to public attention by Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson when an online deepfake of her seeming to perform explicit sexual acts was released last year. Her team worked tirelessly to refute the video and encouraged her to make a victim impact statement to clear her name, pointing to similar attacks on the actresses Natalie Portman and Emma Thompson. I was happy to see this show of strength — but at the same time I could not help but wonder: What if this happened to a poor Black woman like me?
I provide nonpartisan advice on artificial intelligence on Capitol Hill. My job is to help policymakers ensure that technological progress is in the public interest. If someone were to make deepfake pornographic content of me, it would undermine public trust and derail my career. I do not have the resources to salvage my reputation, to place my attack in a larger social context and to recoup the lost income. This is why I need the government to regulate the spread of deepfakes — and so do the rest of us.