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Police officer wearing a body camera. Photo: Felix Hörhager/picture alliance/Getty Images

Every weapon is on the table in the war against democracy-disrupting deepfakes — from technology to detect the AI-altered videos and audio to legislation that would punish creating and distributing them.

The big problem is that these solutions don't work yet. So a third approach is gaining traction: developing a way to verify that a video hasn't been altered.

The big picture: The bet is that authenticating videos — tracing them back to their source, like an expensive diamond — is a better solution than trying to sniff out forgeries after they've already been made, which is extremely hard.

Amber Video, a San Francisco startup, creates a breadcrumb trail that begins the moment a video is recorded.

  • It uploads a unique fingerprint corresponding to each video and saves it on a blockchain, so that viewers can later check to make sure it hasn't been tampered with.
  • We've also reported on Truepic, a startup that takes a similar approach.

What's going on: On Monday, Amber CEO Shamir Allibhai presented his company's technology during a meeting of the foremost deepfake warriors at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There, he pitched video authentication for body cameras.

  • Amber Video recently brought on security researcher Josh Mitchell, who demonstrated last summer that that some bodycams can be hacked and their video altered.
  • To prevent this, Amber software — if installed on a camera — continuously uploads information called a "hash" to a blockchain. The hash can later be used to make sure that what's being played back is the very same video that was recorded.

The big challenge is getting bodycam manufacturers to install this software on their equipment. Allibhai says he's in talks with several companies, but none have committed as yet.

The bottom line: For now, deepfakes aren't the biggest worry for bodycams. They still take a while to make, and they're not quite good enough to escape close scrutiny. But nearly every expert agrees that's not going to be the case for long.

"We'll see a [police] video that's highly controversial in some way … and it's going to take 10 minutes before people start raising questions about whether it's been manipulated."
— Jay Stanley, ACLU

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

28 mins ago - Technology

Why domestic terrorists are so hard to police online

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Domestic terrorism has proven to be more difficult for Big Tech companies to police online than foreign terrorism.

The big picture: That's largely because the politics are harder. There's more unity around the need to go after foreign extremists than domestic ones — and less danger of overreaching and provoking a backlash.