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A new report by the federal Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) in Canada warns that deepfakes pose a persistent threat to public safety, especially in the hands of violent extremists.

AI-created images, video, and audio are becoming increasingly easier to generate, allowing people to spread false information and sow confusion. This report by ITAC was prompted by a fake image of dark smoke rising near the US Pentagon posted in May on social media, causing stocks to temporarily drop.

ITAC’s analysis claims extremists could use deepfakes to advocate for violence, promote harmful narratives, cause panic, damage reputations, and sabotage trust in government institutions.

“Hoaxes provide violent extremists with an effective technique to disrupt daily life or to intimidate targeted groups or individuals, including by potentially diverting security resources from their regular duties,” reads the report. “Continued deepfake hoaxes could result in a competitive environment among threat actors, where the goal is to cause increasing real-world impacts, such as economic harm.”

The report concludes that violent extremists with limited capabilities are more likely to use hoaxes like deepfakes than ones who are capable of conducting more direct actions.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service invited experts and security practitioners to a workshop in May of 2023 in an effort to explore the threats posed by such disinformation technologies. A resulting report claimed that terrorist organizations recognize the potential of employing deepfakes in the spread of propaganda and coordination of attacks.

The report also states that democracies must invest in cutting-edge deepfake detection technologies that can unmask digital imposters, as well as criminalize the creation and dissemination of deepfakes.

However, the battle against deepfakes cannot be won through technology and legislation alone. Another powerful and important strategy is arming citizens with the power of critical thinking and media literacy, enabling them to discern truth from fabrication.

By fostering a society that is professionally skeptical, informed, and resilient, governments can build a shield against the corrosive effects of deepfakes.

This information was provided by CTV News.