“Deep fake” videos another threat to democracy


In an era when there is a concerted effort to confuse the citizens of our nation about what is fact and what is fiction there is another troubling storm on the horizon.

Trump has turned up the rhetoric on criticism by not just reasoned rebuttals but by declaring every bit of media reporting that doesn’t glorify him as “fake news”. As Leslie Stahl reported last year this is deliberate.

“He said you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”


We already know about the agenda of “alternative facts”.

Ok, so this is bad enough.

Now the altered video technology is truly disturbing. For now experts can identify the fakes, but only with time and effort. Even so the damage can done long before corrections, explanations and rebuttals.

So why is this a threat to democracy?

The founders put the postal service into the Constitution because they knew that an informed citizenry is a key component of a workable Republic based on elected representatives and presidents. And that has not changed.

And here we are in an era of almost universal access to information on a scale not imagined centuries ago. We should be the most well informed electorate ever. Even if there are sources that are biased, within a few clicks anyone can fact check or research the veracity of any story.

Videos are a big part of this. Witness the immense success of YouTube. Plus we are inclined to believe what we see and hear with our own eyes.

I think we have a big problem on our hands.

I hope that technology can protect videos from undisclosed editing perhaps by embedded codes that reveal or prevent it.

14 thoughts on ““Deep fake” videos another threat to democracy

  1. Reprehensible behavior that we, as a society, will have to learn to ferret out and contend with. Legislation, as it is apt to do lags behind addressing cyber crimes. I look forward to punishments going forward that fit the crime. Manipulation of the weak minded (and often lazy) citizenry is what has led to the political mess we are in today. We must get the real “fake news” out of the public dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem is that even when such deceptions are exposed, partisans are so committed to believing ill of those they oppose that they will continue to believe them and doubt those who expose the fakes.

      Consider how many people still cling to Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick graph a decade after it was exposed as a fake.


        1. I’m really uninterested in Michael Mann’s excuses and equivocations. The man is a fraud and a disgrace.

          If you want the whole story about why I hold him is such disdain, see




          But briefly, the first graph in your link is what made me a skeptic. The moment I saw it 20 years ago, I knew we were being scammed.

          Why? It starts in 1400AD even though Mann’s data went back 2000 years, conveniently excluding the Medieval Warm Period. Lie to me once and I will never trust you again.


          1. Largely because of you I’ve educated myself about the MWP and have found the discussions about it fascinating. Emotions tend to run high and the debates are both sides have credence. Having said that (and I did read the links you provided) I don’t think there is a clear cut concensus, but your position appears to be in the minority. Admittedly some that buy-in to Mann’s and others interpretation have a problem with his methodology. However, the overarching results seem to be generally accepted.

            I tend to let myself be fooled twice on things I consider important…


          2. “but your position appears to be in the minority.”

            I’m used to it.

            For 40 years I was in the minority of health care professionals who said it was OK to eat red meat.

            I was right.

            Science doesn’t care about consensus.

            “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, it doesn’t matter who said it. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”- Richard P. Feynman


    2. RE: “I look forward to punishments going forward that fit the crime.”

      I’m not ready to rush to law-making on this issue. In this case, someone lost his job, which may be a sufficient resonse. Besides, I’m not inclined to try to save the weak-minded from themselves. I have noticed they develop pretty good defenses on their own.


      1. I had to work at not being snarky on your comment and I’ll just say that the abuse of power (which MSM has in spades) through the intentional provision of mis-information is cause for a lot more than “job loss”. IMO.


        1. RE: “abuse of power…through the intentional provision of mis-information is cause for a lot more than ‘job loss.'”

          I don’t disagree. Good legislation for dealing with the problem is vary hard to craft. I’m not sure I know what should be in it.

          For example, I’d like to be able to sue CNN just for being fake news. But I haven’t worked out a way to do that without exposing my favorite outlets to lawsuits.


  2. Unknown — because it is unreported (!) — is the video maker’s motive. Did he intend to slander the president by ridiculing him, or to support the president by showing that fake news really is the “enemy of the people” as the president often claims?

    A deepfake video is, after all, the perfect symbol of fake news. All media products create illusions that we interact with, but willful illusions are increasingly the stock and trade of news media today.

    Note, for example, how The Pilot’s WAPO piece operates. By neglecting or ignoring the video maker’s motive we are left to stew in our own assumptions about the story. The story triggers whole constellations of thought, but all of them are subjective and unreal because the story does not provide the relevant facts we need to make an objective, conscious assessment of the event.

    Are such deepfake videos really a threat to our democracy? It’s hard to say. Human beings have been dealing with lies for a very long time. Consciousness is a pretty good defense.


  3. I agree that the video maker’s intent is a mystery. But then the faked version was almost comical instead of realistic.
    The facial distortions from tongue hanging out to an orange skin were not really believable.

    The true “deep fakes” are almost indiscernible from the real thing. If not today, certainly in the very near future.

    Te could be just like the original except the words and accompanying expressions and lip movements are altered to deliver a controversial message.

    Those are the worrisome ones.

    ‘The first casualty, when war comes, is truth’, attributed to Hiram Johnson in 1917

    “On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, said that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in 2018. Fact-checks of Sanders’ statement showed that the 4,000 figure applied to 2017, not 2018, and included stops made by DHS officials around the globe, with the vast majority of them occurring at airports.”

    “Actually, It’s More Like Six, Reports U.S. Customs”.


    Is the president trying to start a war with those kinds of fear inducing lies?

    That is very serious stuff to be disseminating. 4000 known terrorists at the Southern Border?

    Or was Sanders video doctored by someone?


    1. RE: “Te could be just like the original except the words and accompanying expressions and lip movements are altered to deliver a controversial message.

      “Those are the worrisome ones.”_

      To be sure.! In a related note, the government records the full content of every phone call you make, every email you send, and every post you share in this forum. This has been public knowledge for years, but no one seems to care.

      Imagine a deepfake video of yourself saying and doing things you have never done. I think this is the more concerning issue the WAPO story hints at.


  4. Good article. It is pretty amazing how much “punditry” there is compared to investigative news reporting. Particularly in cable, broadcast and radio.

    At least the major print media can still afford to launch serious and lengthy investigations from time to time.


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