TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A realistic-looking video of Ron DeSantis announcing that he is dropping out of the presidential race is making its way across social media. But the deep fake – generated by artificial intelligence (AI) – is a disturbing reminder that technology mimicking specific individuals could fool some into believing a lie.
TAKING IT TO A “DIFFERENT LEVEL”
“Generative AI creates content that sounds reasonable and plausible but has little regard for accuracy,” University of Washington professor Kate Starbird said. “In other words, it functions as a BS generator. Some studies show AI-generated misinformation to be even more persuasive than false content created by humans.”
Dr. Jim Purtilo, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, said most AI creations up to this point have been from computer geeks having fun and competing to show off their skills.
“This deep fake of a supposed DeSantis announcement takes it to a different level,” Purtilo said. “It reflects not just technical expertise in the manufacture of a synthetic video but also great political tradecraft. Whoever made this knew a message about Governor DeSantis dropping out of the GOP primary race would be debunked almost instantly, but nevertheless, it creates a real talking point which distracts from issues.”
The video, created by satirist C3PMeme on YouTube, has been shared and posted to X, Instagram and other platforms, sparking concerns the technology could be used to tarnish a candidate’s image. It could also cause candidates caught in embarrassing situations to dismiss evidence as fake, making it difficult for people to know the truth.
Charles King of Pund-IT says more deep fake videos and audio will likely surface leading into next year’s presidential election.
“The current political climate in the US is so fractured and ugly that there are large audiences of people on both sides ready to believe the worst about others,” King told Forbes.
While the videos can go viral in minutes, King says social media platforms should do more to address the problem.
“The largest danger is that many of the Internet platforms used to spread disinformation in the past don’t appear to have the interest, capacity or will to curtail it today,” King explained. “Perhaps that will change in the coming months. If not, what already looks like an exceedingly divisive campaign could be worse than most people can imagine.”
Earlier this year, the DeSantis campaign released a video that showed former President Donald Trump embracing Anthony Fauci. But the campaign suggested the images were apparent fakes, comparing them to memes circulated by Trump, according to a New York Times report.
Although the video released this week may seem odd or altered to those who follow DeSantis closely, this kind of misinformation could cause people to falsely believe Florida’s governor dropped out of the race. Deep fakes go far beyond traditional campaign tricks and could play a more significant role in the 2024 presidential election.
“THERE’S GOT TO BE LIMITS”
In August, DeSantis said regulations on AI would entrench biased data models and give China an advantage in the emerging technology. Conservative radio host Erick Erickson asked DeSantis about the “unknown unknowns” he might face as president.
“I think one of the things that we don’t know where it’s going per se, but we know it’s going to be an influence, is artificial intelligence,” DeSantis said.
The guiding principle DeSantis said would be that “we’re not going to let human beings be displaced and overtaken by computers. That’s not going to be good for society.”
Florida currently lacks AI-specific regulations, but does have laws that may govern the use of AI technology by Florida businesses. The state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act protects consumers from a broad range of prohibited conduct in trade or commerce.