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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.

Rachel Levine sworn in as first openly transgender 4-star officer

Rachel Levine testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Feb. 25, 2021. Photo: Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images

Rachel Levine was sworn in on Tuesday as the admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, making her the nation's first openly transgender four-star officer, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

The big picture: Levine, the assistant secretary for health, made history in March when she became the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's carbon emissions-cutting pledge faces tough climb

Image from the Rhodium Group study "Pathways to Paris." Courtesy of the Rhodium Group.

The verdict is in: President Biden's U.S. emissions-cutting pledge isn't a fantasy, but the path to meeting it is very difficult and relies on forces outside of White House control.

Driving the news: The Rhodium Group just released an analysis of policy combinations that could close the gap between the current U.S. trajectory and Biden's vow under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions in half by 2030.