Deepfakes in Psychological Warfare

in #news3 months ago


The US government is apparently getting into the business of generating deepfakes. A recent Intercept article talks about this, as well as the military's interest in other emerging technologies for use in psychological warfare. Here's an excerpt:

"U.S. Special Operations Command, responsible for some of the country's most secretive military endeavors, is gearing up to conduct internet propaganda and deception campaigns online using deepfake videos, according to federal contracting documents reviewed by The Intercept. The plans, which also describe hacking internet-connected devices to eavesdrop in order to assess foreign populations' susceptibility to propaganda, come at a time of intense global debate over technologically sophisticated "disinformation" campaigns, their effectiveness, and the ethics of their use. While the U.S. government routinely warns against the risk of deepfakes and is openly working to build tools to counter them, the document from Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, represents a nearly unprecedented instance of the American government — or any government — openly signaling its desire to use the highly controversial technology offensively."

Over the last few years, the idea of deepfakes becoming a "threat to democracy" has been promoted by media and academia. A 2019 Guardian article titled, 'The rise of the deepfake and the threat to democracy' is an example of this. So is a 2022 piece from Northeastern University titled, 'Deepfakes and fake news pose a growing threat to democracy, experts warn.' At first glance, these dire warnings appear to make sense. But a closer look provides cause to challenge the narrative.

Given the US government's track record of using every tool in their arsenal to undermine democracy abroad for political and economic reasons, our military and intelligence services will almost certainly use deepfakes to interfere with foreign governments. And if we're doing this, other governments will definitely do it too. The question isn't whether this will happen, or even whether it will happen on a massive scale. The real question is how much that matters.

Nail in Democracy's Coffin

Democracy in the US is dead in all but name. From my perspective, the final nail in democracy's coffin here was the rigged 2016 Democratic Primary, when Hillary Clinton's campaign colluded with party officials and mainstream media to prevent Bernie Sanders from running against Trump for president. When news of this election rigging came out, we didn't fix democracy. Instead, the media simply pretended like it hadn't happened.

If democracy is dead, deepfakes can't exactly undermine it. Nor can they plausibly undermine media integrity, for similar reasons. Although it has always been true that top media outlets like New York Times and Washington Post present biased perspectives, their role in the covid debacle made it clear that a nontrivial portion of their stories were pure fake news. At the same time, censorship of true information reached a fever pitch during the pandemic. When the mainstream publishes fake news and also censors genuine news, it challenges the legitimacy of news media in general.

The deployment of deepfake propaganda may further threaten this legitimacy, but only marginally. It is of course concerning that the military wants to spy on people through their smart devices so as to increase the effectiveness of their propaganda. And it's easy to envision scenarios where high quality deepfake videos come to be used as a pretext for conflict, or a pretext for new legislation that further erodes freedom. But by the time the tech reaches that level of sophistication, we may have already become accustomed to disbelieving our senses when encountering new, potentially shocking information.

At the root of all of this is the idea of credibility. Over the last few years, our government and mainstream media outlets have sacrificed most of their credibility, such that their messaging may as well already consist of deepfakes.

One emerging trend that's now showing up is the migration of independent journalists to platforms like Substack. When Seymour Hersh published his story on the US destroying the Nord Stream Pipeline, I paid attention because he's a journalist with impeccable credibility. Had the New York Times ran this piece, I would have viewed it with more skepticism.

As deepfakes begin making their way into our media sphere, I think the issue of source credibility will become paramount. Our government is barely credible and mainstream media is no better. But there are trustworthy journalists, like Hersh, capable of vetting images and videos for authenticity. Maybe we'll even see actors from the nonprofit sector rise to the occasion.

Read my novels:

See my NFTs:

  • Small Gods of Time Travel is a 41 piece Tezos NFT collection on Objkt that goes with my book by the same name.
  • History and the Machine is a 20 piece Tezos NFT collection on Objkt based on my series of oil paintings of interesting people from history.
  • Artifacts of Mind Control is a 15 piece Tezos NFT collection on Objkt based on declassified CIA documents from the MKULTRA program.

I like this nuanced perspective. Sometimes I find myself seduced into solely focusing on the next covert corruptions I discover, where I (and many others looking beyond status quo narratives) get lost in being reactionary and dramatic. Like the Intercept article on deepfakes, I totally bought into the fear and horror of it all, and didn't think much beyond that. Yet taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture like you are with this post, you're reminding me of the "mutual arising" nature of all life and reality. I look forward to seeing how our independent media systems will evolve and rise up, influenced by (and in response to) the corruption by Big Gov and Media...

Right on. Before making this post, I too considered deepfakes to be potentially very dangerous. But closer examination made me question this idea.

My sense is that we're approaching a tipping point with independent media as mainstream narratives fall apart. This seems like a very good thing, though it'll probably be messy.

The rewards earned on this comment will go directly to the people sharing the post on Twitter as long as they are registered with @poshtoken. Sign up at