2024 Leg Sessiom, Columnists, Elections, Mike Rosen, Uncategorized

Rosen: Colorado ‘deep fake’ bill a solution in search of a problem

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

As usual, unlimited-government Democrats in our state legislature are concocting yet another law to protect us from an imagined threat. Now, it’s fear of Artificial Intelligence posing a threat to “free and fair elections” via fraudulent deepfake images or videos depicting “an individual appearing to say or do something the individual did not say or do without the person’s consent.” Another exercise in passing needless and ineffective laws for the sake of “doing something.”

AI is with us and it’s not going away.  Like so many other inevitable technological innovations it will bring good things and bad, like atomic energy or the Internet. AI is the latest panic du jour, reminiscent of the Y2K scare just before the turn of the new millennium in 2000.  Then, the panic was that computer programs representing four-digit calendar dates with only the last two digits would cause the year 2000 to appear to be 1900.  Warnings abounded that computer systems would crash worldwide creating havoc and chaos, and planes would fall from the sky.  When the dreaded calendar page ultimately turned, damage was minimal at worst.

Deep faking images are nothing new.  It’s basically a much advanced version of photo shopping, a deception, I’ll confess, I once committed. At a stop on a media junket in the Soviet Union in 1987,our group was hosted for a tour and discussion at RIA Novosti, a government-controlled news agency in Moscow.  On a table, was a collection of historical photographs, copies of which were on sale for $5.00 each.  I bought one of Vladimir Lenin, circa 1920, seated at a conference table while leaning to his side listening attentively to comments from an aid.  Back home in Colorado, a friend who owned a photography studio artfully photoshopped my head in place of Lenin’s confidant. Needless to say, I’m not a Lenin admirer.  But I loved the irony of Vlad intently seeking my sage advice.  I’m not really worried this self-inflicted deepfake will be spread around to expose me as a commie sympathizer.

Democrat legislators are aping Don Quixote, tilting at a windmill imagined to be the AI dragon. Cheering them on are the usual suspects, Colorado Common Cause and Public Citizen, left-wing activists whose idea of a fair election is one that elects progressive Democrats.  Aly Belknap of Common Cause is worried that AI disinformation will add to “declining trust in the media among Americans,” and make it easier to spread large-scale propaganda, “leaving voters confused and further questioning what they see and hear.” What constitutes disinformation is highly subjective and open to bias. Editorial cartoons, by their nature, tend to be grossly exaggerated and partisan.  Is that disinformation?  How about clever satire, like the Babylon Bee?

In 2022, Biden and congressional Democrats created the Disinformation Governance Board under the Department of Homeland Security.  Critics compared it to Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s novel “1984,” a dystopian classic of totalitarian government.  Nina Jankowicz, a radical left-wing partisan Democrat, was installed as its executive director.  Ironically, she was promptly exposed as being a disinformer, on record for lying about the Trump-Russia investigation and its connection to the Hillary Clinton election campaign and lying about Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop emails.  Amidst a storm of protest, she was forced to abruptly resign.

Declining public trust in the media has been well deserved long before AI. The dominant-liberal-establishment-mass-media blatantly favors Democrats and progressive causes led by The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, and the Associated Press, along with our own Denver Post, whose combined audience hugely overwhelms the FOX News Channel’s rare conservative platform.  Late-night TV talk show hosts are overwhelmingly on the left, demonizing Republicans and pandering to Democrats.  Their opening monologues routinely exaggerate and distort issues for laughs.  (After his departure nine years ago, Jon Stewart is back hosting Comedy Central’s Daily Show just in time to ridicule Trump and praise Democrats throughout the election campaign.)  Does this fit Common Cause’s definition of “disinformation?”

Lying is the language of politics, it’s only a matter of degree, but it’s rarely prosecutable.  Constitutional protection of free speech in the media tolerates spin, bias and distortion just short of libel or slander.  There’s no practical legislative remedy for this.  As for deep fakery, in our free society it’s an insignificant factor in the imperfect universe of opinion, news, and entertainment —to say nothing of the open sewer of acrimonious social media.  Confused voters should absolutely question what they see and hear.  AI deepfakes will be a minor test of their gullibility.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.


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