Duplicity at Scale and the Need for Cognitive Security

“Deep fake” technologies have the potential to create duplicitous audio and video clips of real people. Things have been bad with disinformation polluting the information environment. They are about to get a lot worse. What is to be done?

  • Dr. Rand Waltzman, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Rand Corporation

Session Photos



Why is the information environment so fraught right now?

    • People have a natural tendency to propagate negative and novel information.
      • Negative stories grab more attention than positive ones and we are more likely to share that information with others.
      • We have a natural predisposition to stimuli like sex, gossip, or violence.
      • Automation can be weaponized to exacerbate those tendencies.
    • We have not learned how to manage the effects of text-based social media, even as we enter the age of social multimedia, i.e. video, photographic, voice and other types of fraudulent content.
Products of “deep fake” technology
    • Hyper-realistic falsifications of images, video, and audio.
    • Possible to create audio and video of real people saying and doing things they never said or did.
    • Enables rapid and widespread diffusion of technology, putting it into the hands of both sophisticated and unsophisticated actors.
    • Machine learning techniques are escalating the technology’s sophistication.
    • A giant leap forward in the ability to distort reality.


    • India: A video on YouTube appears to show a group of Muslims beating two Hindu men out of revenge for a boy who was killed. Set off real violence that required military intervention. The reality? It’s an old video, deliberately repurposed with a new label.
    • Trump visits Poland: Edited video makes it appear the Polish Prime Minister’s wife has snubbed Trump, and headlines later told that story. Reality is protocol demanded she greet the First Lady first, then the President.
    • Thispersondoesnotexist.com: Shows you fake photos of people who look perfectly “normal” populating social media accounts and other parts of the internet.
    • Videos of Barack Obama that show him talking and look entirely real, actually the product of clever fakes.
    • Software that manipulates any face in any video, generated using just 15 seconds of video where the target shows a range of expressions.


What’s the future?

Waltzman maintains that it’s only going to get worse.

Connect with organizations such as The International Fact-Checking Network, a unit of the Poynter Institute, to find out the latest best practices in detecting fraudulent content.

“Snopes, the Poynter Network and other fact-checking sites are starting to do a reasonably good job [detecting fraudulent content.]”

“Nobody is going to help you out of this, you have to help yourselves. Don’t expect Google, Facebook, or Twitter to save you. You are going to have to take measures and steps to deal with your problems – not platforms, the government, or anybody else.”


In his own words:

“The absolutely essential ingredient of a good con is a willing victim. Deception is based on the biases people have and what they want to believe.”

– Waltzman

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