Political Editors / February 27, 2019

Artificial Intelligence Creating Fake News

The promulgation of disinformation is a real and growing problem that needs to be addressed.

Who needs the Russians to run a disinformation campaign when there are American leftists creating “deepfake” news? After the 2018 midterms, a wealthy Democrat became embroiled in controversy when it was reported that he had heavily bankrolled a false-flag operation in Alabama. Back in December, Internet billionaire Reid Hoffman apologized for his part in funding a high-tech disinformation campaign that sought to undermine support for Republican Roy Moore and boost Democrat Doug Jones.

Just after Christmas, The Washington Post reported, “Hoffman invested $750,000 in one group, American Engagement Technologies, or AET, according to a person close to the matter but not authorized to discuss Hoffman’s spending. Hoffman’s statement Wednesday referred to AET, which has been linked to a campaign to spread disinformation targeting Moore.” The Post further reported, “Hoffman’s public apology follows news reports on the effort, known as Project Birmingham, which involved the creation of misleading Facebook pages to persuade Alabama conservatives to vote for somebody other than Moore.”

While the promulgation of fake news is disgusting in and of itself, there is a more sinister aspect to this story that has many on both sides of the political aisle ringing alarm bells. As reported by The Guardian, “The creators of a revolutionary AI [artificial intelligence] system that can write news stories and works of fiction — dubbed ‘deepfakes for text’ — have taken the unusual step of not releasing their research publicly, for fear of potential misuse.”

The nonprofit research company known as OpenAI, founded in 2015 by Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Sam Altman, and Elon Musk (who left the company last year over his disagreements with the direction the team wanted to go), finds itself at the center of controversy. The Daily Caller notes that “lawmakers sounded alarms in January about so-called deepfake videos that look remarkably real, with some experts warning they will be the next phase in disinformation campaigns. They worry that this new type of AI can make it difficult for readers and social media users to distinguish fact from fiction.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) last month lamented, “It is almost too late to sound the alarm before this technology is released — it has been unleashed … and now we are playing a bit of defense.”

This is indeed a problem, and it will only get worse as nefarious individuals and organizations work to weaponize AI technology in order to manipulate the masses with disinformation. It also provides some justification for the creation of “crediting houses” such as NewsGuard, which aims to provide a service designed to inform individuals on the credibility of various news sites. Although it’s far from perfect or free from bias, the recognition of the problem is real, and the need for conservatives to be involved in the process of “balancing” the vetting of news is imperative.

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