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        PerspectiveFacebook Takes a Step Forward on Deepfakes—and Stumbles

        Published 9 January 2020

        The good news is that Facebook is finally taking action against deepfakes. The bad news is that the platform’s new policy does not go far enough. On 7 January Facebook announced a new policy banning deepfakes from its platform. Yet, instead of cheers, the company faced widespread dismay—even anger. What went wrong?

        Journalists, technologists, and academics have been warning about the threat posed by deepfakes — the realistic-looking video or audio falsehoods which show real people doing or saying things they never did or said. Danielle Citron, Robert Chesney, and Quinta Jurecic write in Lawfare that deepfakes, generated through neural-network methods which are capable of achieving remarkably lifelike results,

        present a challenge for both privacy (the vast majority of deepfake videos are nonconsensual pornography, showing people performing sex acts they never engaged in) – and security (consider, for example, the effects of a deepfake showing the president announcing a nuclear strike on North Korea). And as two of us (Citron and Chesney) have written, if deepfakes grow more common, they also “threaten to erode the trust necessary for democracy to function effectively[.]”

        So it should have been a relief when, on 7 January, Facebook announced a new policy banning deepfakes from its platform. 

        Yet, instead of cheers, the company faced widespread dismay—even anger. The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was recently targeted by a misleadingly edited video in which he appeared to make a racist comment during a campaign speech, declared that Facebook’s announcement represented only the “illusion of progress.” Also angry was the team of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was similarly targeted in May 2019 with a deceptively edited video altered to make her appear drunk or in poor health—which Facebook refused to take down at the time. “Pelosi’s people,” wrote Washington Post technology reporter Tony Romm, “are pissed[.]”

        So what went wrong?

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