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New media synthesis technologies are rapidly advancing and becoming more accessible, allowing users to make video and audio clips (i.e. deepfakes) of individuals doing and saying things they never did or said. Deepfakes have significant implications for the integrity of many social domains including that of elections. Focusing on the 2020 US presidential election and using an anticipatory approach, this article examines the ethical issues raised by deepfakes and discusses strategies for addressing these issues. Eight hypothetical scenarios are developed and used as the basis for this analysis, which identifies harms to voters who view deepfakes, candidates and campaigns that are the subjects of deepfakes, and threats to electoral integrity. Four potential forms of intervention are discussed with respect to multi-stakeholder responsibility for addressing harms, including education and media literacy, subject defense, verification, and publicity moderation.
Nicholas Diakopoulos is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies and Computer Science (by courtesy) at Northwestern University where he directs the Computational Journalism Lab. His research focuses on computational journalism, including aspects of automation and algorithms in news production, algorithmic accountability and transparency, and social media in news contexts. He is author of the book, Automating the News: How Algorithms are Rewriting the Media, published by Harvard University Press in 2019. Find him online at http://www.nickdiakopoulos.com/