CPS warns of UK’s 'first deepfake election'

  • With voters heading to the polls in just a matter of weeks, a new report warns that this could become the UK’s first deepfake election
  • A number of deepfakes have already appeared online in recent weeks aimed at spreading election disinformation
  • A deepfake video purported to show Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting calling Diane Abbott a ‘silly woman’ on Politics Live, while another Labour candidate was targeted with a video that appeared to show him using crude language to mock constituents
  • The paper asks whether there is anything that can be done to halt the spread of such disinformation, and explores how we should respond to the rise of deepfakes more generally – arguing that we should prioritise updating existing laws and regulations over creating new ones, and regulating the content not the means of its creation

Three weeks out from polling day, a new report warns of the dangers of ‘realistic fake footage that is cheap to create and spread across the internet’ impacting the UK general election.

A number of deepfake videos have appeared in recent weeks, with high-profile politicians targeted in an attempt to spread false information. In one, Wes Streeting was shown apparently calling his Labour colleague Diane Abbott a ‘silly woman’ on Politics Live. Another video falsely showed Labour’s North Durham candidate, Luke Akehurst, using crude language to mock constituents.

‘Facing Fakes’ by Matthew Feeney, Head of Tech and Innovation at the Centre for Policy Studies, warns that technological advances have made such ‘deepfakes’ easier and cheaper than ever to produce. However, the paper warns against the inevitable kneejerk reaction to such technology, citing the precedent of other recent attempts to regulate new technologies.

The report recommends that the Government should focus on updating existing laws and regulations, adhering to the existing principle that it is the content itself which should be legal or illegal rather than the means of its creation. However, it urges the Government to expand on Britain’s existing world-leading work on AI safety by setting up a deepfake taskforce as part of its AI safety efforts, as well as sponsoring further deepfake detection contests and supporting the development of watermarking technologies.


Report author and CPS Head of Tech and Innovation, Matthew Feeney, said:

‘With three weeks before the UK heads to the polls, politicians and the public are right to be concerned about the threat deepfakes pose to democracy. However, the worst possible response would be a kneejerk ban on the technology underpinning it.

‘There is no realistic way to turn back the tide – nor should we seek to. AI-generated imagery has enormous potential in the creative industries, for example. Politicians should focus on updating existing legislation, policing the content rather than the technology used to create it.’

Date Added: Friday 14th June 2024