U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) seeks deepfake expertise for propaganda operations in procurement.
In the RFP document published by The Intercept, SOCOM is asking for “Military Information Support Operations (MISO)” for “influence operations, digital deception, communication disruption, and disinformation campaigns at the tactical edge and operational levels.”
Specifically, SOCOM calls for “next generation ‘deep fake’ or similar technology” to generate messages for influence operations in “non-traditional channels in relevant peer/near-peer environments” – which sounds like targeted dissemination of deepfake propaganda on social media. In the same section, SOCOM calls for technologies to collect data from public and open information streams, such as social and local media, to inform targeted influence campaigns.
SOCOM also plans to “takeover” IoT devices to “collect data and information from local populaces to enable breakdown of what messaging might be popular and accepted through sifting of data once received.” This would allow MISO to create and disseminate messages that are more likely to be accepted by the local population, according to the document.
U.S. military uses controversial deception technology
Deepfakes are AI-generated fake media such as photos, videos, or soundtracks. In most cases, words are put into people’s mouths or people are shown in a misleading context.
Deepfake videos can be particularly convincing, especially on social media, where video quality and attention spans are low. A recent deepfake of US psychologist Jordan Peterson fooled many Twitter users despite lip-syncing errors that were obvious at second glance.
Last year, a politically targeted potential deepfake attempt related to the Ukraine crisis appeared on social media. In an obviously fake video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selensky called on his people to lay down their arms.
Although deepfakes can be used for entertainment, the original term has a negative connotation. It was coined by Reddit user “deepfakes”, who popularized an AI algorithm that can be used to replace the faces of people in pornography with those of celebrities or peers. Read more in our history of deepfakes.
An EU study on the state of deepfakes, published in the fall of 2021, concludes that deepfake techniques are becoming more accessible, cheaper and better, making them a risk with escalated audiovisual communication on social media.
The sci-fi series “The Capture” shows the potential for misuse of very sophisticated deepfake technology in the context of political and ultimately military manipulation.