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US Special Forces to use 'deep fake' disinformation propaganda to 'influence operations'

U.S. Special Operations Commander Gen. Bryan Fenton (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Special Operations Command plans to develop and use deepfake technology to generate disinformation and propaganda campaigns that "influence operations," according to federal contracting documents that include a wish list of future technologies.

The documents, obtained by the Intercept, revealed that the military is seeking to develop next-generation technologies to hack and "takeover" [sic] foreign populations' internet-connected devices to gather data and information that would "enable breakdown of what messaging might be popular and accepted."

This strategy would enable the SOCOM to "craft and promote messages that may be more readily received by local populace in relevant peer/near peer environments."

The SOCOM document noted that it seeks to develop the next generation of "deep fake" technology that could "generate messages and influence operations via non-traditional channels."

The pitch document also listed other future technology developments, including lasers, robots, and holographs. SOCOM is accepting proposals for these next-generation advancements through 2025.

According to the Intercept, the procurement document was first published in 2020 by the SOCOM's Directorate of Science and Technology; however, an updated version published in October 2022 discreetly added the section titled, "Advanced technologies for use in Military Information Support Operations," or MISO. The outlet stated that the phrase is a euphemism used by the Pentagon for its global propaganda efforts.

Future MISO technologies aim to "influence operations, digital deception, communication disruption, and disinformation campaigns."

Chris Meserole, the head of the Brookings Institution's Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, told the outlet that the Pentagon should not be battling "fire with fire" regarding disinformation. He called for the DOD's efforts to be subject to oversight and review.

"At a time when digital propaganda is on the rise globally, the U.S. should be doing everything it can to strengthen democracy by building support for shared notions of truth and reality. Deepfakes do the opposite," Meserole stated. "By casting doubt on the credibility of all content and information, whether real or synthetic, they ultimately erode the foundation of democracy itself."

Max Rizzuto, a deepfakes researcher with the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, warned that "the capacity for societal harm is certainly there."

"If it's a non-traditional media environment, I could imagine the form of manipulation getting pretty far before getting stopped or rebuked by some sort of local authority," Rizzuto told the Intercept.

SOCOM did not reply to a request for comment, the Intercept and the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

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