Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2019

ISSN

0025-4282

Publisher

Maryland Law Review

Language

en-US

Abstract

It’s bad. We know. The dawn of “deep fakes” — convincing videos and images of people doing things they never did or said — puts us all in jeopardy in several different ways. Professors Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron have noted that now “false claims — even preposterous ones — can be peddled with unprecedented success today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquity and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization.” The scholars identify a host of harms from deep fakes, ranging from people being exploited, extorted, and sabotaged, to societal harms like the erosion of democratic discourse and trust in social institutions, undermining public safety, national security, journalism, and diplomacy, deepening social divisions, and manipulation of elections. But it might not be all bad. Even beyond purported beneficial uses of deep-fake technology for education, art, and science, the looming deep-fake disaster might have a silver lining. Hear us out. We think deep fakes have an upside.

Crucial to our argument is the idea that deep fakes don’t create new problems so much as make existing problems worse. Cracks in systems, frameworks, strategies, and institutions that have been leaking for years now threaten to spring open. Journalism, education, individual rights, democratic systems, and voting protocols have long been vulnerable. Deep fakes might just be the straw that breaks them. And therein lies opportunity for repair. Below we briefly address some deep problems and how finally addressing them may also neutralize the destructive force of deep fakes. We only describe three cultural institutions – education, journalism, and representative democracy — with deep problems that could be strengthened as a response to deep fakes for greater societal gains. But we encourage readers to think up more. We have a hunch that once we harness the upside of deep fakes, we may unlock creative solutions to other sticky social and political problems.

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