Anticipating and Addressing the Ethical Implications of Deepfakes in the Context of Elections

New Media & Society

27 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2019 Last revised: 23 Apr 2020

See all articles by Nicholas Diakopoulos

Nicholas Diakopoulos

Northwestern University - School of Communication

Deborah Johnson

University of Virginia - School of Engineering & Applied Science

Date Written: October 23, 2019

Abstract

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 U.S. presidential election and using an anticipatory approach, this paper 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.

Keywords: deepfakes, synthetic media, electoral integrity, anticipatory ethics, technology ethics

Suggested Citation

Diakopoulos, Nicholas and Johnson, Deborah, Anticipating and Addressing the Ethical Implications of Deepfakes in the Context of Elections (October 23, 2019). New Media & Society, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3474183 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3474183

Nicholas Diakopoulos (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - School of Communication ( email )

70 Arts Circle Drive
Office of the Dean
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nickdiakopoulos.com/

Deborah Johnson

University of Virginia - School of Engineering & Applied Science ( email )

Box 400246
Charlottesville, VA 22904-0246
United States

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