Manipulated videos are rapidly becoming a fixture of the 2020 election. On Aug. 30, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) used Twitter to share a video that was misleadingly edited to distort Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s views on defunding the police. That same day, Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, tweeted a manipulated video to make it appear as though Biden had fallen asleep during a televised interview.
So far, full-fledged deepfakes — audio and video manipulated with the help of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques — aren’t playing a major role in online discourse. The hoax videos shared by Scalise and Scavino use relatively crude, widely available methods to create what experts refer to as “cheapfakes.” These videos require no specialized expertise and are relatively inexpensive to produce. Because these fakes are often so obvious, those who distribute them can disingenuously dismiss them as simply satire or jokes.