Disinformation is fed by instability. Unsafe and uncertain conditions provide the optimal climate in which objective reality can be poisoned. From the Middle East to Africa, from South America to Russia, the world is full of current striking examples. Although the people of the geography chosen as victims cannot be completely separated from their reality, a cloud of fog is created on them. In this way, it is easier to mislead the international public who do not have access to true information with fictional scenarios.
So far, politicians and opinion leaders, guided by organized media organizations that mislead the international community, have been noted in human history. However, artificial intelligence product synthetic media and its most destructive type, deepfake, is now a more useful weapon for online political operations of the digital age. Moreover, deepfake cyber-attacks can be easily anonymised, making victims of dirty disinformation wars unsolved deep in history.
Maybe a Saddam deepfake would be enough
About 40 countries supported the US invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, with claims of a “nuclear weapons threat.” The Iraq operation, which no one can deny today that it was an irreversible global disinformation operation, is being cursed today by a significant part of people who supported it that day. In order for this operation to be accepted, which caused the country to lose its independence and collapse, terrorist brutality, the death of millions of people and irreparable wounds to the conscience of humanity, many international media organizations, politicians and opinion leaders produced grounds for nuclear danger in those days. However, if it hadn’t been for 15 years with deepfake technology, no one would have had to take this responsibility. A deepfake video showing Saddam Hussein at the nuclear weapons-producing facility would perhaps be more than enough for his glorious rule in Iraq to end in the pit where he was hiding.
Political disinformation demolishes from within inside, blindfolds the world too
Political operations in chaos geographies are supported by provocations that will eliminate the rights of target countries and nations to determine their integrity and their common future. The manipulation of political actors and events deepens the chaos. In online disinformation wars, the deep focus of imperialism and colonialism does not change the result that those who use synthetic media weapons are repressive administrations, enemy intelligence agencies, or terrorist organizations that are mostly suppliers of them. Deepfake technology, thanks to the level of credibility it has achieved, can be convincing both from the point of view of its supporters in the chosen geography of the victim and from the point of view of the international community, albeit temporarily, to deepen uncertainty, ignite the climate of conflict and legitimize fictional reality.
Deepfake weapon was also used in military coup in Myanmar
Because the political turmoil never ended, Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country that often mentioned in the world, was the scene of a new military coup about four months ago. The coup, led by Chief of staff Min Aung Hlaing, also made history with a deepfake attempt aimed at democracy. Fake confession images of Yangon State Premier Phyo Min Thein, who was jailed by coup d’etat soldiers in Myanmar, were produced and served to the press. In a deepfake video broadcast on the military-controlled MRTV channel on March 24, Thein appeared to say that he had handed bribes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which held power before democracy ended in the country. But those who carried out the military coup in Myanmar on February 1 failed to beat the AI product Deepware Scanner deepfake detection technology. A Turkish AI initiative Deepware.ai disclosed that the video is a deepfake video that does not reflect reality. Deepfake scanning and detection engine ‘Deepware Scanner’ technology has scanned the video more than 500 times and concluded that it is 75% deepfake. Thus, users around the world who learned that the video was not real were saved from falling into the disinformation trap of the coup plotters.
Closed-circuit point shot deepfake attack on Russian opponents and EU lawmakers
In order to destroy reality with the deepfake weapon, it is not always necessary to produce mass social engineering scenarios. Deepfake cyber-attacks can be carried out closed-circuit and online, sometimes aimed at political targets. A series of deepfake attacks aimed at sabotaging solidarity and cooperation between oppositions under pressure in Russia and the European Union (EU) were also carried out via video conference last April. The Guardian reported that European Union lawmakers had been deceived by the deepfake of Leonid Volkov, who was on the team of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (!) announced that they were conducting negotiations.
Among those duped by Volkov’s deepfake filter in Video conference calls were Rihards Kols, Chairman of the Latvian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as MPs from Estonia and Lithuania. “Putin’s Kremlin is so scared of @Navalny that they are holding fake meetings to discredit the Navalny team. They reached out to me today. They’re not going to publish the parts I call Putin a murderer and a thief, so I’m writing here.” Tugendhat, a British parliamentarian, said in a written statement.
Serious threat to international security and stability
Latvian parliamentarian Kols posted on Twitter a photo of Navalny’s ally Leonid Volkov and a screenshot taken from a video call with him. Kols said he was reached by email by a person claiming to be Volkov. In a brief video conference call with Volkov deepfake, Kols said they discussed support for Russian political prisoners and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Kols said: “it was a pretty bitter lesson. But thanks to this false Volkov, it has become clear that the decay of Truth or the post-truth era has the potential to seriously threaten the security and stability of local and international governments and societies. Deepfake victim Volkov said: “it looks like my real face, but how did they manage to put it in the Zoom search? Welcome to the age of Deepfake.”
FBI warns of Russian, Chinese deepfake
The United States also sees Russia and China, which it cannot share with the world, as its biggest enemies in the field of disinformation wars and deepfakes with synthetic media content. Last March, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned the US public that Russian and Chinese – made deepfake circulation would increase in the next year and a half. The FBI, in particular, noted the attempts of disinformation outsourced to synthetic media content uncovered by private sector research companies during the tensest presidential election in U.S. history last year.
“Spamouflage Dragon goes America,” a report published in August last year by Graphika, a New York-based social media research and analysis company, suggested that a network of accounts called Dragon was created on multiple social media platforms to keep Trump’s White House Administration for heavily criticizing. The report highlighted the use of fake profile images with AI-generated synthetic media to add authenticity to the campaign, which originated in China. The network, which Graphika described as “Operation Dragon,” had produced deepfake videos almost daily, on topics ranging from the Trump administration’s decision to ban social media company TikTok in the US to the government’s policies on the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report. While Graphika could not determine whether the network was connected to the Chinese government, U.S. intelligence analysis of the period suggested that Beijing was working to lower Trump’s chances of re-election. “The network was active and open to the public,” the report said. Usually, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, seemingly possessed, or for any other purpose, tailored using Chinese accounts as politically relevant videos released, and then share and comment on posts created by using a fake account set the impression of an organic community. It was also possible that this report could be a fake Trump victimization scenario.
Media literacy versus deepfake, according to FBI
Before the U.S. election in 2020, researchers at the Internet Research Agency determined that a Russian troll farm used deepfake images created by productive contentious networks (GAN) in fake profile accounts allegedly used to manipulate voters in favor of Trump. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, in collaboration with Graphika and Facebook, uncovered AI-generated images used in a pro-Trump campaign.
The FBI has also warned it will investigate deepfakes attributed to foreign malicious actors. During the US election process, the attack, which went down in history as a bloody Congressional raid, was also said to have been caused in part by misinformation spread online by far-right influencers and media organizations. While some of the main providers of disinformation that triggered the deadly uprising are domestic actors, foreign actors from Russia, Iran and China have also been seized on for exploiting the division in the United States and supporting their own interests. The FBI’s warning also pointed to the importance of media literacy to improve people’s skills in detecting deepfakes. In a speech at an event in Washington, D.C., a few days later, FBI Director Chris Wray argued that citizenship education is a national security issue.
Is this how the digital future will shape the artificial universe?..
In the artificial universe of the digital future, it is clear that the danger of nuclear weapons is being replaced by dirty disinformation wars. Synthetic media produced with AI technology and its most convincing weapon, deepfake, can lead to historical misconceptions from the point of view of the international community, leading global stability and unexpected upheavals and irreversible destruction of peace and security. While millions of people are surprised and amused by fake Trump or Putin videos, the deepfake terror that destroys objective reality with political disinformation may be trying to change borders in geography or darken the future of a nation.