Government Use of Deepfakes

The Questions to Ask
Remote Visualization

This paper examines several scenarios in which democratic governments might consider using deepfakes to advance their foreign policy objectives. It argues that officials should consider the following factors: (1) the likely efficacy of the deepfake, (2) its audience, (3) the potential harms, (4) the legal implications, (5) the nature of the target, (6) the goal of the deepfake, and (7) the traceability of the deepfake back to the originating democratic government. In general, the authors argue that deepfakes should not be used as they are likely to reduce the credibility of democratic governments if their use is discovered, though there may be rare circumstances when their use deserves serious consideration. This paper also proposes a process for approving or rejecting deepfakes that ensures that a wide variety of perspectives are brought to the table.

This report was made possible by general funding to CSIS and the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, the McCormick School of Engineering, and the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

Daniel Byman
Senior Fellow, Warfare, Irregular Threats, and Terrorism Program

Daniel W. Linna Jr.

Senior Lecturer and Director of Law and Technology Initiatives, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and McCormick School of Engineering

V. S. Subrahmanian

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Computer Science, Fellow, Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, Northwestern University