Defending against deep fakes, with lifelogs, watermarks … and tatts?

Episode 227 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In this episode, Bobby Chesney charts the emergence of undetectably forged videos. They're not here yet, but before we're ready the internet will be awash with fake revenge porn, fake human rights atrocities, and fake political scandals. My talk with Bobby revolves around a recent paper by him and Danielle Citron. I confess to having seriously considered federal support for a fake video involving Osama bin Laden and kumquats (not what


Patt Cannaday and Stewart Baker

you're thinking, though that would have been good too). Bobby and I discuss the ways in which the body politic – and particular political bodies – might protect themselves. This leads Bobby to propose a Cyberlaw Podcast mug prize for listeners who suggest what – and where – I should get inked as my last line of defense. He's on. Send your suggestions to

In the news, Maury Shenk and I puzzle over the EU's questionable competition ruling (and $5 bn fine) for Google's alleged abuse of a dominant position in mobile operating systems. Once again I find myself agreeing more with Donald Trump than his critics.

Patt Cannaday, a Steptoe summer associate, finds what's new in the Justice Department's Cyber Digital Task Force report: principally a set of rules to make sure that outing foreign governments interfering in our elections doesn't become Justice Department interference in our elections. We both think Justice plans to give social media platforms privileged access to data about foreign governments' tactics and plans. I propose that any such access be conditioned on the platforms pledging not to use the information to squelch speech that they just don't like.

Nick Weaver explains why the recent Spectre and other side channel attacks on speculative execution are going to continue – and how big a performance hit our computers will take as we try to protect ourselves.

Congress is negotiating with the administration on penalties for ZTE. Nick thinks the result has been confusion between the export control penalties, which can be compromised, and supply chain restrictions, which shouldn't be.

All the states have now asked for federal aid to defend their electoral systems from hackers. I argue that it's now on them to prepare for attacks, including efforts to disrupt rather than throw this fall's election.

All those podcasts with Steve Vladeck have left Bobby more comfortable blocking left hooks, but he and I still manage to engage profitably on the Carter Page FISA application document dump. We cover its implications for Devin Nunes's early memo. We question the durability of the application's reliance on early press stories claiming that Trump forces tilted the GOP platform against Ukraine. And I suggest that higher officials in Justice and the intelligence community should have demanded more overt vetting (and disclosure) of any partisanship tainting the evidence. It's a blind spot they wouldn't have had, I argue, if the FBI wanted to wiretap Carter Page while he infiltrated the ACLU.

Download the 227th Episode (mp3).

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  1. Even after they become undetectable to the human eye there will be distinct signatures that could be used to detect forged videos and I’m sure they can be embedded into the software by mandate similar to what they do for money and photoshop today. Even when the time comes when an undistinguishable fake comes online then life will in some ways simply go back to that era before reliable video surveillance, which is what? Maybe a few decades ago? Humanity will manage. Maybe even be better off.

    1. You’re mixing things up. Dollar bills have micro stamps because the Federal Government gets to determine what gets printed on them. If I take your photo from a public vantage point, it’s my work and I am entitled to post it online with no watermark.

      1. Dollar bills have symbols printed on them that result in software acting differently. That’s more than just the feds acting how they want, that’s the feds having software companies do things for them.

        1. Indeed. But the symbols on them are a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for the scheme to work.

  2. I can’t get your link to the EU questionable competition ruling to work

  3. I remember when one of the new Doctor Who series started and there were immediately fake porn of Karen Gillan. Lots of folks couldn’t tell but it didn’t really matter. Convincing fake porn isn’t new, it’s just going to get easier.

    As for fake politics, Russia has a 60 year lead on us on editing photographs but we mastered sensationalist and untruthful reporting half a century before. We’ll get by.

  4. This edition of Libertarians For Big-Government Surveillance and Authoritarian Secrecy is another tribute to libertarianism’s degree of congruence with movement conservatism.

  5. Deep fakes have already been shown on TV. There was a first season episode of STAR TREK TOS named COURT MARTIAL where a video record of the bridge of the Enterprise is altered to falsely show Kirk taking an action. At least one episode of the original MISSION IMPOSSIBLE showed the IM team editing video and audio to make a leader appear to give a damaging speech or order.

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