Deep Fakes: A Looming Challenge for Privacy, Democracy, and National Security

68 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2018 Last revised: 17 Dec 2019

See all articles by Robert Chesney

Robert Chesney

University of Texas School of Law

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: July 14, 2018


Harmful lies are nothing new. But the ability to distort reality has taken an exponential leap forward with “deep fake” technology. This capability makes it possible to create audio and video of real people saying and doing things they never said or did. Machine learning techniques are escalating the technology’s sophistication, making deep fakes ever more realistic and increasingly resistant to detection. Deep-fake technology has characteristics that enable rapid and widespread diffusion, putting it into the hands of both sophisticated and unsophisticated actors. While deep-fake technology will bring with it certain benefits, it also will introduce many harms. The marketplace of ideas already suffers from truth decay as our networked information environment interacts in toxic ways with our cognitive biases. Deep fakes will exacerbate this problem significantly. Individuals and businesses will face novel forms of exploitation, intimidation, and personal sabotage. The risks to our democracy and to national security are profound as well. Our aim is to provide the first in-depth assessment of the causes and consequences of this disruptive technological change, and to explore the existing and potential tools for responding to it. We survey a broad array of responses, including: the role of technological solutions; criminal penalties, civil liability, and regulatory action; military and covert-action responses; economic sanctions; and market developments. We cover the waterfront from immunities to immutable authentication trails, offering recommendations to improve law and policy and anticipating the pitfalls embedded in various solutions.

Keywords: Deep Fake, Deep Fakes, deepfake, deepfakes, Section 230, CDA, Communications Decency Act, fake news, democracy, privacy, sexploitation, gendered violence, social media, cognitive bias, filter bubble, truth decay, information operations, psyops, First Amendment, speech, expression, democracy

Suggested Citation

Chesney, Robert and Citron, Danielle Keats, Deep Fakes: A Looming Challenge for Privacy, Democracy, and National Security (July 14, 2018). 107 California Law Review 1753 (2019), U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 692, U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-21, Available at SSRN: or

Robert Chesney (Contact Author)

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics