New threat rises in world of fake news, political accusations — and people are concerned

New threat rises in world of fake news, political accusations — and people are concerned
Lawmakers, tech experts and others are concerned about technology that could be used to create 'fake news' or damaging political ads. (ipopba/Getty Images)

New technology can create counterfeit videos using just someone’s image and an audio clip of their voice, a development that could wreak havoc in the world of politics or fake news.

In April, BuzzFeed partnered with Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele to demonstrate the technology. Peele fabricated what appeared to be a public service announcement by former President Barack Obama.

ABC News follwed up that report by asking technology experts, politicians and others whether or not the tools pose a serious concern.

What are people saying?

Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth College, explained how the technology could become a big problem as it becomes readily available.

First, there have been “startling” improvements in just the past year in technology that creates what are called “deep fakes, ” Farid told NBC News. The tech can be used to swap out people’s faces with relative ease.

“If there’s two dozen people in the world who can create fakes, that’s a risk,” Farid told the news outlet. “But it’s very different than if 2,000 people or 20,000 people or 200,000 people can do the same thing because now it’s at the push of a button.”

Lyrebird, for example, is a company that can create a digital copy of someone’s voice, then manipulate it to make a person say anything. And technology was unveiled in 2016 that allows the facial expressions of one person to be transferred onto a video of someone else — in real time, the report stated.

“This is terrifying,” Shane Greer, co-owner of the publication “Campaigns & Elections,” told hundreds of digital consultants conference in Washington last week.

Greer has sent his talk to political consultants in the U.S. and Europe, and plans to send it to those in Mexico, as well, NBC News reported.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of the lawmakers who is concerned, the news outlet reported. He is charged with leading a congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Are there any solutions?

Warner has also co-sponsored legislation that forces online companies like Facebook and Google to disclose more information about political ads displayed on their sites.

“People will demand action being taken if we don’t find a way to collaborate [with technology companies] on this,” Warner told NBC News. “And the notion that the market is going to fix this or the tech companies themselves will police this, I just don’t think that’s going to be the case.”

The following video demonstrates the technology, however it does contain some coarse language.