Joe Biden deepfake: sponsor's identity revealed

Joe Biden deepfake: sponsor’s identity revealed

It was an astonishing automated call that received about 5,000 New Hampshire voters in January. Joe Biden’s voice sounded on the line, advising them in a pre-recorded message not to vote in the American Democratic primaries on Tuesday, January 23. “Your vote will make a difference in November, not this Tuesday (…) Voting next Tuesday will only help Republicans get Donald Trump re-elected. » It was fake: Joe Biden’s voice was imitated by artificial intelligence. A political deepfake that caused a lot of excitement in the United States.

We now know the identity of the sponsor, the American channel NBC announced on Friday, February 23. This is Steve Kramer, a consultant hired by the team of Dean Phillips, another candidate for the Democratic nomination. In an interview with NBC, he claims to be at the origin of this idea and swears that Dean Phillips’ team, which denounced this call-out campaign, was not involved in the project.

Steve Kramer explains that he has received a subpoena from the Federal Communications Commission, the US telecom regulator. This is not the only problem that awaits him: several proceedings have been initiated in the United States after the broadcast of this false message from Joe Biden. It must be said that the authorities are on edge: a few months before the November presidential elections, fears are growing that artificial intelligence will be used to disrupt the democratic process, while these increasingly efficient tools are also becoming easier to access. .

A $500 operation

This is what Steve Kramer’s defense is based on: the advisor explains that his initiative was precisely intended to draw attention to the dangers of artificial intelligence in politics. “It was a way for me to make a difference, and it worked”he told NBC. “For $500 I got a security equivalent to $5 million,” he continued, citing the resonance of this story with the media and regulators.

Then why didn’t we come out of the woods sooner and wait for an American channel to reveal his identity before speaking out? “I was waiting for the South Carolina primary to be over, I didn’t want to get involved.”, he defended himself. While he believes this call is imitating Joe Biden “won’t change much” at the end of the primary.

Steve Kramer also admitted that this wasn’t a first for him: he had already used the same process to imitate Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s voice in an automated call to 300 people. A test according to him: the fake senator asked his interlocutors who their favorite candidate was in the Republican primaries. It claims to have achieved a response rate four times higher than traditional automated calls without the use of AI.

Pre-election concerns

This advisor has participated in dozens of election campaigns in the United States, mainly for Democratic candidates, but also for singer Kanye West, who tried to participate in the race for the White House in 2020. Paul Carpenter, magician, revealed his identity to NBC. It is defined as a “nomadic digital artist” And said he was hired by Steve Kramer in January to create the audio file, for $150 (138 euros). A job of about twenty minutes for this enthusiast of digital experiments, who met the consultant through a mutual acquaintance.

The rise of deepfakes in the late 2010s raised concerns about their potential political applications. Although these technologies have so far been used mainly to produce content (deepfakes make it possible to replicate people’s voice, but also their image), their democratization increases fear related to the elections, while half of the world population will vote age will be called to the polls in 2024, either in free elections or already decided in advance.

In mid-February, around twenty major digital companies, including Google, Meta and OpenAI, signed a joint text committing to “help prevent misleading AI-generated content (artificial intelligence) to interfere in the elections scheduled around the world this year ». Joe Biden’s telephone deepfake is the first large-scale American example.

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