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Tech policy experts call for legal reform to combat deepfakes

Tech policy experts call for legal reform to combat deepfakes


Three weeks before the UK general election, Matthew Feeney, head of technology and innovation at the UK-based Centre for Policy Research, warned in a new report about the threat deepfakes pose to electoral integrity.

Technology policy experts said technological advances have made it easier and cheaper than ever to create deepfakes.

But he warned against an inevitable knee-jerk reaction to such technology, citing precedents from other recent attempts to regulate new technologies.

In “Standing Up to Fakes: How Politics and Policymakers Can Respond in the Age of Deepfakes,” Feeney recommends the UK government update existing laws rather than enacting new “AI/Deepfake Regulation.”

He argued that the government should “police the content, not the technology used to create it.”

He also advised the UK government to establish a deepfake taskforce, building on the work of the AI ​​Safety Summit and the AI ​​Safety Institute, sponsor further deepfake detection competitions, and support the development of watermarking technology.

UK's first deepfake general election, but not the last

“We are in the midst of the UK's first deepfake general election, and although the campaign is only a few weeks old, deepfakes and other AI-generated content are already spreading rapidly,” Feeney said in the report.

While some instances of synthetic content are obviously fake and therefore harmless, other instances are more believable and pose risks.

Tech policy experts cited a video in which Labour's shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, is alleged to be calling Diane Abbott a “stupid woman” during an appearance on current affairs show Politics Live, and a video in which Labour's North Durham candidate, Luke Akehurst, is alleged to be using vulgar language to taunt voters.

He added: “Unfortunately for MPs, the nature of social media, the current state of deepfake detection tools, the low cost of creating deepfakes and the narrow reach of UK law mean that harmful deepfake content will likely continue to proliferate regardless of how Parliament acts. This general election may be the UK's first deepfake election, but it will not be the last.”

He also believes that private sector-led deepfake mitigation initiatives such as Watermark Content Solutions should be supported, but that they probably cannot solve foreign interference using deepfakes.

Tackling disinformation risks while preserving technology opportunities

Despite the risks posed by AI deepfakes and AI, Feeney argued against a total ban on AI and deepfake technology, as advocated by some policy campaigns such as ControlAI and Ban Deepfakes.

“Deepfakes have many valuable uses, but laws and regulations could undermine them. Many content creation and alteration techniques – including the printing press, radio, photography, film editing, and CGI – pose risks, but lawmakers have resisted banning these technologies due to these risks, and have criticized much of the existing and upcoming AI regulation,” he wrote.

Feeney further argued that banning deepfakes would require regulators to define what the term encompasses, which is a major challenge.

Read more: Meta oversight board calls for policy change following fake Biden video

Instead, technology policy experts suggested the government should focus on content rather than technology.

He suggested that governments work with the private sector and academia to address the risks of deepfakes on two levels.

At the operational level, we will launch a public-private task force to build on the work of the AI ​​Safety Institute, and at the legislative level, we will amend existing laws to punish false claims, hate speech, harassment, intimidation, fraud, and other harmful behavior.




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