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Axios technology correspondent Ina Fried (left) and Hany Farid, professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Photo: Axios

The technology to produce fake video and audio has become sophisticated enough to make doctored or wholly fabricated images and sound impossible for the public to detect, Hany Farid, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences & School of Information, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual event.

The big picture: Deepfakes, or computer-synthesized images, audio or video, have caused experts to worry about Silicon Valley's ability to meet the challenge of tracking and stopping these AI-generated clips once they become widespread.

What he's saying: "[I]f we do not start thinking about this on many levels, I fear that these are existential threats to democracies and societies," he said.

  • "We’ve seen misinformation lead to horrific violence in Myanmar, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Brazil. We have seen misinformation disrupt global democratic elections around the world. These aren’t hypothetical threats of what will happen if we do not get a handle on mis- and disinformation online," Farid told Axios' Ina Fried.

The state of play: Farid also called for social media platforms to have a better handle on misinformation and to stop hiding behind "the line of 'I don’t want to be the arbiter of truth.' It is nonsense."

  • Social media platforms have generally tried to tackle misinformation with content moderators. Another solution could be changing their algorithm recommendations, Farid, said.
  • "Algorithms are amplifying the most divisive, the most hateful, the most conspiratorial, the most outrageous, because that engages people and that maximizes profit," he added.

Watch the event, Axios' Trust and Transparency, online at Axios.com.

Go deeper

Jan 7, 2020 - Technology
Series / Misinformation age

How Iran's disinformation threat differs from Russia

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America "needs to be prepared for retaliation in the hard cyber space and soft information space" after killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, says a top expert at the Atlantic Council.

Why it matters: Iranian influence operations to-date have been different than other state-backed disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia.

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

3 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.