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Barack Obama Warns Ottawa Audience About Dangers Of DeepFake Technology



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Canada 2020

Obama Voices Concerns About DeepFake Technology

Politicians are now sounding the alarm about the so-called “DeepFake” technology that has been circulating in the news. With this technology, someone can take a picture of any person and create a video of them saying anything.

As expected, the first DeepFake samples to go viral were fabricated videos of celebrities and politicians. Former President Barack Obama was the subject of a DeepFake video as early as 2017.

Initially, the fakes were seen as a novel source of entertainment or an impressive trick. However, as the technology has advanced, experts are becoming more concerned about its implications for politics.

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During a speech in Ottawa last Friday, the former president warned his audience about the new technology.

“People can duplicate me speaking and saying anything. And it sounds like me and it looks like I’m saying it — and it’s a complete fabrication. The marketplace of ideas that is the basis of our democratic practice has difficulty working if we don’t have some common baseline of what’s true and what’s not,” Obama said.

Obama ottawa deepfake

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Canadian Tire Centre at an event hosted by Ottawa-based think tank Canada 2020 on May 31, 2019. Photo Credit: Canada 2020

How DeepFake Works

This technology works using machine-learning algorithms that analyze archives of video and audio recordings to create convincing fabrications.

The technology is growing more advanced and convincing by the day. At first, DeepFake was very crude and rudimentary, but now, AI has been able to achieve nearly perfect replication. As our previous coverage noted, there have been many iterations of this technology in the past few years.

Samsung’s currently unnamed DeepFake algorithm is the most advanced and powerful of these offerings. Samsung’s technology can even create realistic, talking fabrications of classic paintings like the Mona Lisa.

Mona lisa deepfake

(Egor Zakharov)

Upcoming House Intelligence Panel

Lawmakers have become so concerned about the technology that they have called an emergency meeting to discuss its regulation.

During the month of June, The House Intelligence Committee is having a hearing to discuss DeepFake. The committee will be looking into the national security implications associated with this technology.

DeepFake Regulation

Some social media platforms, such as Twitter and Gfycat, announced that they would delete DeepFake content and block its publishers. However, Facebook drew criticism in the media this May, when the company refused to take down a Nancy Pelosi fake.

The pranksters edited the video in a way that made Pelosi appear to slur her words on camera. Whoever, made the Pelosi video did not even use advanced AI to create the fake.

They created the hoax using very basic video editing software to slow the recording. However, if they did have DeepFake capabilities, they could have created even more confusion.

The following is an extremely convincing DeepFake of Barack Obama.

Implications For Elections

The intelligence community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment warned about the implications of DeepFake.

“Adversaries and strategic competitors probably will attempt to use deep fakes or similar machine-learning technologies to create convincing—but false—image, audio, and video files to augment influence campaigns directed against the United States and our allies and partners,” the assessment reads.

In April, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told The Hill that DeepFake could “wreak havoc” during elections.

“Now with DeepFake technology, the Russians can push out fake audio or fake video that is indistinguishable from being real. They can make candidates for office say things they’ve never said,” Schiff said.

Not For The Average User

One concern that critics have voiced about this technology is the possibility of it falling into the hands of hackers. However, experts seem to believe that the barrier to entry for DeepFake will remain high for a while.

Tim Hwang, director of the Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative says that this tech is too expensive for the average hacker.

“Nothing suggests to me that you’ll just turnkey use this for generating DeepFakes at home. Not in the short-term, medium-term, or even the long-term,” Hwang says.

However, large corporations and state-level actors using this technology is not a comforting prospect either. It is very possible that governments could use DeepFake videos to convince its citizens to go to war. Likewise, these same forces can use these fakes to change the outcome of elections, and perhaps even history.

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Mark Horowitz is a graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in political science. Horowitz could have had a job at one of the top media organizations in the United States, but when working as an intern, he found that the journalists in the newsroom were confined by the anxieties and sensibilities of their bosses. Horowitz loved journalism, but wanted more freedom to pursue more complex topics than you would find on the evening news. Around the same time, he began to notice that there was a growing number of independent journalists developing followings online by sharing their in-depth analysis of advanced or off-beat topics. It wasn't long before Horowitz quit his internship with a large New York network to begin publishing his own material online.

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Nancy Pelosi Tells Democrats She Wants To See Trump “In Prison”: Report



Getty: Win McNamee

House Democrats Disagree On Impeachment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she would like to see President Donald Trump in prison. The speaker’s comments came this Tuesday during a meeting with Senior Democrats about the Mueller investigation.

In the meeting, Pelosi disagreed with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler about the possibility of impeaching President Donald Trump.

Nadler and other House Democrats have been doing everything they can to push the Trump impeachment forward. However, Pelosi doesn’t think that impeachment is a good strategy until the measure has more support. Pelosi seems to be playing both sides, by siding with her party in rhetoric but not in practice.

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Pelosi believes that the courts can hold Trump legally and criminally accountable if Americans vote him out of office.

“I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison,” Pelosi said, according to Politico‘s sources.

Pelosi Playing Politics

This was a cunning political move for Pelosi because it allows her to signal support for both Democrats and Republicans. Ever since impeachment became a possibility, Pelosi has maintained that she will only support the measure under certain conditions.

Nancy Pelosi Democrats

Nancy Pelosi says that she would rather see Donald Trump imprisoned than impeached, but some House Democrats think that she is standing in the way. Photo Credit: Win McNamee of Getty Images

First, impeachment would need to have strong backing from both Republicans and Democrats, which has not yet materialized. Second, the general public would need to be united in support of impeachment. However, Americans do not agree about Trump or his policies, and remain divided along political lines.

For these reasons, Pelosi is still hesitant on the issue of impeachment, despite her disdain for Trump. Pelosi is still one of Trumps greatest adversaries, but she is currently protecting him from more aggressive House Democrats.

Trump Responds To Pelosi

Trump indirectly addressed Pelosi during an interview on Fox News with Laura Ingraham at the Normandy American Cemetery. The President told Ingraham that Democrats would make “fools of themselves” if Mueller testified before Congress.

“Nancy Pelosi,  I call her ‘Nervous Nancy’, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t talk about it. She’s a disaster. She’s a disaster. Let her do what she wants, you know what? I think they’re in big trouble,” Trump said.

Mueller Investigation

During the closed-door meeting where Pelosi said she wanted to see Trump in prison, House Democrats also discussed Mueller’s testimony.

According to sources at the meeting, Nadler said that Mueller could receive a subpoena within two weeks. However, Mueller is currently only willing to answer questions from Congress in private, not in public.

Nadler said that it is essential that Mueller testify.

Mueller Democrats

Special counsel Robert Mueller has told House Democrats that he does not want to testify before Congress. Mueller says that his testimony is in his report. Photo Credit: Getty Images

“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that. I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen,” Nadler said.

Mueller doesn’t that he should have to testify because he published such an extensive report. Mueller said that he has already laid out all of his evidence in the report.

 “I hope and expect that this is the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. The work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.

History Of Impeachment In US Politics

Impeachment is incredibly rare in US politics and has only happened a few times in US history.

The first US president to face impeachment was Andrew Jackson, in 1868. Jackson was controversial for favoring the south in the aftermath of the civil war.

However, the technical reason for his impeachment was the dismissal of Edwin M Stanton as secretary of war. The second President to face impeachment was Bill Clinton, in 1998, for lying about an affair.

Both Jackson and Clinton remained in office after their impeachment proceedings. In both cases, Congress was not able to gather the two-thirds majority votes needed to convict them.

President Richard M. Nixon also faced impeachment after the Watergate scandal in 1974. However, there was far more public support against Nixon’s impeachment and far more evidence against him.

To avoid impeachment, Nixon instead resigned from office. If he faced trial, Nixon would have likely become the only president in US history to lose office through impeachment.

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Trump Becomes First Republican President To Recognize LGBT Pride Month



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President Trump Positions Himself As LGBT Ally

United States President Donald Trump recently became the first Republican president to recognize the LGBT Community’s celebration of Pride Month.

Trump has been making efforts to position himself as an ally of the LGBT community since his campaign for president. However, many of his critics say that this is just an empty public relations ploy. His critics also say that he has not been friendly to the LGBT community while in office.

Trump’s recognition of the annual Pride celebration came in a series of tweets this week.

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President Donald Trump told his Twitter audience:

“As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”

Reactions From LGBT Republicans

LGBT Republicans were overwhelmingly supportive and impressed by Trump’s recognition of Pride.

Gregory T. Angelo, former president of the Log Cabin Republicans, thanked the President in a tweet.

“Been waiting all my life for a Republican to show this kind of leadership. THANK YOU PRESIDENT TRUMP!” the tweet read.

Trump LGBT

Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag in Colorado during the 2016 election. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci of the Associated Press

The Log Cabin Republicans are a prominent LGBT conservative group.

Jerri Ann Henry, the current leader of the group, told BuzzFeed News she was “thrilled” to see Trump’s tweets.

“In his statement, the president mentioned his support of the many LGBTQ individuals around the world who are wrongfully persecuted for their sexual orientation. We look forward to working with him to ensure the policies in this country are nondiscriminatory,” she said.

Suspicion From Trump’s Critics

While Republicans were happy to applaud Trump for his comments, his critics were not so easily convinced. Trump’s positions on transgender issues took center stage in debates about his dedication to LGBT rights.

The most common complaint from critics is that Trump has used his presidential powers to roll back gay rights. One of the most contentious issues of the Trump presidency was his proposed policy on transgender individuals serving in the military.

The Trump administration has also passed legislation that allows doctors to deny care to LGBT patients. The administration has also threatened the equal access rule, which could exclude LGBT applicants from homeless shelters.


A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty carries a rainbow-striped American flag while marching in San Francisco’s gay pride parade, June 28, 2015. Photo Credit: Elijah Nouvelage of Reuters

Trump’s opponents also suggested that his tweet was more of a threat to Muslim countries than a recognition of Pride. In order for Trump to enforce worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, he would need to authorize military action in numerous countries.

Pride history

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national LGBTQ civil rights organization:

“For some Americans, it is the only occasion where they can be out and proud in their community. Pride festivals and parades are a celebration of the progress the LGBTQ community has made… Also a time to recognize the distance we still have to go to achieve full equality.”

Researchers often track the origins of the Pride tradition back to the “Stonewall riots” of June 28, 1969. The riots were a massive turning point in the history of the LGBT movement. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in Manhattan that saw frequent harassment from police. On the night of the riot, police attempted to raid the bar, but the attendees who gathered inside fought back.

The event sparked a string of protests and marches that eventually grew into a nationwide, and then worldwide celebration.

The next year, on Saturday, June 27, 1970, Chicago Gay Liberation organized a march that would inspire many others.

By 1971, Gay Pride marches were taking place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. Then, by 1972, the marches expanded to Atlanta, Brighton, Buffalo, Detroit, Washington D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Over the years, Pride festivals became a global phenomenon.


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Trump Declares Emergency To Bypass Congress For $8.1 Billion Saudi Arms Deal



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Concerns About Iran

This week, US President Donald Trump worked to fast track a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The president used emergency powers in order to bypass Congress and go forward with billions of dollars in weapon sales.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Congress on Friday to explain the administration’s plans. Pompeo explained that the Saudis would be the first line of defense against Iran if there was a conflict.

“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

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Pompeo said, “An emergency exists, which requires the immediate sale of the defense articles and defense services.”

The US government will now be sending large shipments of arms to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The weapons are needed “to deter further the malign influence of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” Pompeo said.

“Today’s action will quickly augment our partners’ capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to US posture in the region to deter Iran,” he added.

$8.1 Billion Deal

In the statement, Pompeo confirmed that the deal included $8.1 billion worth of arms.

Meanwhile, Trump announced a new troop deployment for the Middle East. The deployment will include an additional 1,500 US troops.

The deal was unpopular with both Republicans and Democrats, who pointed to Saudi Arabia’s many human rights violations.

Pompeo told Congress that “I intend for this determination to be a one-time event,” in response to the backlash.

Pompeo was quick to note that this is not the first time that a President has used these emergency powers. Secretary of State Pompeo pointed out at least four other presidents have taken similar action since 1979.

He also promised that “this specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress.”

Iran trump

Iran’s foreign minister and Donald Trump have threatened each other on Twitter. Photo Credit: Sky News

However, Pompeo also blamed Congress for slowing down an important measure for the country’s defense.

“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” Pompeo said.

“These national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of Congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit,” Pompeo added.

An anonymous US official described the contents of the arms shipments to CNN.

The source said that the shipments included surveillance aircraft, advanced precision-kill weapon guidance systems, and Javelin missiles. In addition to the hardware, the US will also provide maintenance and training to their Middle Eastern allies.

An Emergency Loophole

In order to make this deal, the White House took advantage of Section 36 of the Arms Control Act. This is a loophole that allows the White House to approve arms deals without Congress signing off.

For most arms deals or acts of war, a 30 day oversight period is required. This requirement is in place to allow Congress enough time to vote on the issue. What this means is that the White House can just declare an emergency if they want to fund unpopular programs without getting permission from Congress.

Senator Chris Murphy said that Trump is making this move because he knew that Congress would not approve the sale.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” Murphy said.

“There is no new ’emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen. Doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there. This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress.”

“We have the constitutional duty to declare war and the responsibility to oversee arm sales that contravene our national security interests. If we don’t stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to,” Murphy added.

Talk of Iran has been missing from Donald Trump’s Twitter page this week. Last week on Twitter, Trump threatened that a war with the US would “end” Iran.

Tensions are now higher than ever between Iran and the United States, and neither side is showing signs of backing down.

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