SAG-AFTRA Leaders Focus on Deepfakes

May 6, 2019 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA members Alyssa Milano, Heidi Johanningmeier, National Executive Director David White and privacy and security experts Hany Farid and Mary Anne Franks to discuss the emerging threat of “deepfakes.”

Deepfakes are realistic digital forgeries of videos or audio created with cutting-edge machine-learning techniques.

The panel, which was moderated by NBC4 anchor Colleen Williams, explored the ways deepfake technology can be weaponized to harass and defame public figures – particularly women. Schiff discussed the threat it poses to national security and democracy when used to disseminate misinformation.

“We convened this event because the issue of non-consensual deepfakes is an emerging threat that affects each of us. It has a significant impact on actors, broadcasters and recording artists but it is also an attack on our democracy. Deepfakes technology not only steals our images, but potentially harms our reputations and our careers. Equally damaging is the potential harm it can cause to broadcasters and reporters whose voice and image can be manipulated to create a false narrative,” said Carteris.

“I am deeply concerned that deepfakes could be used to spread disinformation or interfere in our elections, and we have already seen these technologies used to harass, exploit and invade the privacy of private citizens, particularly women,” said Schiff. “We have another election coming up and it’s more important than ever for the public to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Our democracy depends on it.”

Added Johanningmeier, “Any one of us can have our image grabbed from us without consent. This is real. This is terrifying.”

According to Farid, there are three types of deepfakes that are a major concern: lip sync fake, face swap fakes and puppet master fakes and it’s important to distinguish between all three. Added Franks, “Our views on personal identity need to be protected at the federal level.”

Said National Executive Director David White, “SAG-AFTRA is committed to pass legislation that prohibits nonconsensual digitized nudity and sex scenes and protects the public from having their image rights stolen. Bringing attention to the issue is key. Informing producers and studios about this serious threat is also essential. Now is the time for change and the time to educate our industry stakeholders.”

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