The U.S. Special Operations forces are reportedly considering using deepfakes as a weapon of war or propaganda tool, according to a report from The Intercept.
Despite repeated warnings about the misuse of deepfakes and their potential to interfere in elections and undermine democracy, the U.S. government is said to be preparing to deploy them for psychological operations (psyops).
According to an Intercept report citing federal procurement documents, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is seeking third-party solutions to develop deepfaking capabilities.
While the targets for these online propaganda campaigns would initially be foreign countries, the use of deepfakes as a tool of war raises serious ethical and practical questions.
The Brookings Institution commented on the situation, suggesting that “the Pentagon should not be fighting fire with fire” when it comes to disinformation.
The think tank’s Chris Meserole said the U.S. should “strengthen democracy by building support for shared notions of truth and reality.”
“When it comes to disinformation, the Pentagon should not be fighting fire with fire,” said Meserole, head of the Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative.
“At a time when digital propaganda is on the rise globally, the U.S. should be doing everything it can to strengthen democracy by building support for shared notions of truth and reality. Deepfakes do the opposite. By casting doubt on the credibility of all content and information, whether real or synthetic, they ultimately erode the foundation of democracy itself,” Meserole went on to say.
While SOCOM’s plans involve not only developing deepfake technology to launch misinformation and disinformation campaigns but also hacking internet-connected devices to eavesdrop and assess foreign populations’ susceptibility to propaganda, the use of deepfakes in targeted military and intelligence operations must be subject to review and oversight.
SOCOM plans to accept proposals until the end of 2025 and has not commented further on the matter at this time.