(Ken Silva, Headline USA) As the Biden administration claims to be cracking down on so-called disinformation, its Pentagon is planning to use “deepfake” technology to wage disinformation campaigns against target countries, according to a recently released procurement document from U.S. Special Operations Command.
The procurement document, first obtained by The Intercept, shows that SOCOM is looking to obtain numerous new technologies as part of a modernization effort. Among those technologies is software that can generate “deepfakes”—videos, audio or images where a person is replaced with someone else’s likeness.
The purpose of the deepfake technology is to help SOCOM engage in “influence operations, digital deception, communication disruption, and disinformation campaigns at the tactical edge and operational levels,” the procurement document states.
The procurement document also shows that SOCOM is seeking technology to hack internet-of-things devices to spy on their users. The purpose of this is to “collect data and information from local populaces to enable breakdown of what messaging might be popular and accepted.”
The Intercept’s article about the procurement document quotes technology pundits who criticized the Biden administration for engaging in the same tactics it deems as existential threats to democracy.
“When it comes to disinformation, the Pentagon should not be fighting fire with fire,” Chris Meserole, head of the Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, reportedly said.
“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.”
A viral tweet from former Naval intelligence officer Jack Posobiec is an example of a deepfake psyop. Posobiec’s tweet shows a deepfake of President Joe Biden instilling the military draft for a hot war with Russia.
This is unreal! pic.twitter.com/NUD0cjMYs3
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) March 5, 2023
An example of a military psyop, albeit a shoddy one, was a deepfake of Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordering troops to surrender shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
While the SOCOM document purports to only use its psyops on foreign populations, history shows that military technology used overseas often comes back home to be deployed on domestic populations—from drone technology first experimented with in Vietnam to facial recognition software developed in Afghanistan. Economists Chris Coyne and Abigail Hall, authors of Tyranny Comes Home, termed this the “the boomerang effect.”
“The U.S. government is able to experiment with a broader range of social controls,” Coyne and Hall wrote. “Under certain conditions, these policies, tactics, and technologies are then re-imported to America, changing the national landscape and increasing the extent to which we live in a police state.”
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.