Tag Archives: Latest Issue

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Deepfakes Perpetuating Disinformation in America

By Ruhi Kumar

In the report Deepfake, Cheapfake: The Internet’s Next Earthquake? DeepTrust Alliance describes the ‘portending serious consequences’ deepfakes have for society by highlighting the social, political and emotional toll deepfakes place on individuals, corporations and governments. As the issue of deepfakes permeates many aspects of society, legislators and policymakers have long struggled to come up with appropriate solutions and safeguards. Id.

Given the vast scope of this issue, it is pertinent that stakeholders adopt a collaborative and holistic solution be adopted to curb the use of deepfakes, only then will the deepfake misinformation be addressed in a meaningful way. To ensure long-term success in curbing deepfake misinformation a combination of technological tools and processes, legislative policy and consumer education campaigns should be adopted.

Deepfakes are a “potential new frontier of disinformation warfare” and misinformation that requires prompt policy action. Tom Dobber & Nadia Metoui, Do (Microtargeted) Deepfakes Have Real Effects on Political Attitudes?, 26 The Int’l J. of Press/Pol. 71 (2020).  This has been particularly evident in political elections, since to an untrained eye, a deepfake may be difficult to distinguish from a legitimate video. For instance, in the 2020 Indian elections, the Delhi BJP partnered with a political communications firm to create campaigns utilizing deepfakes to sway a large Haryanvi-speaking migrant worker population in Delhi from voting for the rival political party. These deepfakes were distributed across 5,800 WhatsApp groups in Delhi and reached approximately 15 million people. Id. Circumstances like this and many others prompt questions about the “legitimacy of democratic elections, the quality of public debate and the power of citizens”. Dobber & Metoui.

As such, in order to remedy the potential corrosive impact deepfakes could have on an already fragile political landscape governments should adopt legislation that aims to curb potential misinformation and ensure the safety of their citizens. Several states in the United States such as California and Texas have passed laws that criminalize the publishing and distributing of a deepfake videos that intend to influence the outcome of an election. While the enactment of these laws is a step in the right direction, it does little to create long term change given the vast and cross boarder nature of online platforms. Even with this newly enacted state legislation, victims continue to encounter hurdles in identifying the exact location of the deepfake creator.

Additionally, in many cases the creator of the deepfake may be located outside of the state’s jurisdiction making the legislation inapplicable, leaving consumers susceptible to misinformation and victims lacking adequate redress. In order to tackle this issue, legislators should adopt a federal approach which would allow for a more cohesive handling of deepfake cases and facilitate more impactful remedies for victims.

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Active Cyber Measures: Reviving Cold War Debunking and Deterrence Strategy

By Nicolas Aalberg

Department of Justice and National Intelligence Center reports on active cyber measures (ACMs) carried out by U.S. adversaries on social media display a staggering manipulation of American conversations, journalism, and electoral processes. Unlike Cold War active measures conducted through human intelligence (HUMINT) operations, creating or manipulating an online intelligence asset requires exponentially fewer resources and yields results with far greater scale. However, the U.S. responded to Cold War active measures through defensive counterintelligence and misinformation-debunking programs and through offensive, active HUMINT deterrents, and that same strategy can be used to combat ACMs today.

The Intelligence Community (IC) must work defensively using signals intelligence (SIGINT) and open-source intelligence (OSINT) to detect and neutralize enemy social media accounts, and Congress must create a bipartisan committee (the “Committee”) to communicate declassified information to the American public to expose manipulation of online conversations. At the same time, USCYBERCOM and CIA must work in tandem offensively through a new blend of cyber warfare and HUMINT to deter ACM proliferation and respond in kind, and once again set global military and intelligence standards on U.S. terms.

I.   Defensive Posture: Congress Must Create a Bipartisan Committee to Counter Active Cyber Measures

Given that U.S. adversaries are successfully laying siege to the fabric of American political conversations, the U.S. needs to adopt a Cold War-era defensive posture consisting of counterintelligence efforts and increased transparency with the electorate about manipulated conversations. Historically, CIA has collaborated with FBI on counterintelligence efforts to remove compromised and planted HUMINT assets. NSA, CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) must similarly identify active personas and botnets through a combination of SIGINT and OSINT and collaborate with the social media industry to remove these accounts.

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Turning US Vetting Capabilities and International Information-Sharing to Counter Foreign White Supremacist Terror Threats

By Terence Check

In June 2021, the Biden Administration released the United States’ first ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. While nominally directed at all domestic terror threats, which include anarchist attacks and acts of violence against Asian-Americans regardless of the race of the perpetrator, the Strategy makes clear that the greatest domestic violent extremist (DVE) threat comes from White racially motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) who believe in the superiority of the White race. The emphasis on White RMVEs permeates the Strategy, and rightly so. The Intelligence Community’s (IC) 2021 assessment of the threat of domestic violent extremism made clear that—while domestic terrorism runs across the political spectrum and can be found in any demographic group—White militia extremists and RMVEs pose the most serious threat.

White RMVEs in the United States have an attribute that makes this threat different: they share ideological links to other like-minded White RMVEs in other countries. In the words of the IC, “US RMVEs who promote the superiority of the white race are the DVE actors with the most persistent and concerning transnational connections.” After all, many White supremacist and White nationalist ideologies leverage and use iconography from foreign past and present White nationalist groups. The IC assessed that US-based White RMVEs influence (and are in turn influenced by) other foreign extremists motivated by their belief in the superiority of the White race. The IC Assessment made an even more concerning observation: not only do foreign and domestic White extremists collaborate on the internet and social media, but “a small number of US RMVEs have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals.”

It is possible that foreign RMVEs may also travel to the US and to other foreign countries for similar purposes. With the growing rise of violent White nationalist movements and the propensity of lone actors affiliated with such ideologies to commit attacks in other Western democracies abroad, the federal government should consider how existing traveler screening tools can address the transnational movements of foreign White RMVE actors as an important part of the new Strategy. This article examines how these existing tools can address this resurgent threat.

The current Strategy rightly focuses on the need to share information and to focus on transnational dimensions of white RMVE terrorism movements. Strategic Goal 1.2 calls for broader and enhanced information-sharing within the federal government and with other “external partners.” The text of this Strategic Goal, however, focuses primarily on other governments within the United States, wisely looking to facilitate information-sharing and the distribution of intelligence products with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. This Strategic Goal, however, remains silent on the question of international information-sharing with allied foreign governments to address the international movement of foreign RMVE terrorists. Strategic Goal 1.3 does focus on the international dimensions of the domestic terror threat, but limits said focus to countering malign influence and dissemination, designating foreign terrorist organizations, and constraining the financial activities of terrorist groups.

There is no mention of the traveling foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon, as hinted at in the IC Assessment, and thus no description of the importance that curtailing such travel would have to furthering the goals of the Strategy. This is an oversight. Luckily, however, the US can call upon a robust travel and border security screening framework that already exists.

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