In an op-ed for The New York Times, Henry Farrell and Rick Perlstein consider the political implications of new audio and video manipulation technologies. The piece, “Our Hackable Political Future,” reflects on technology-enabled political deception in the midst of a public controversy regarding alogrithmically generated fake pornography videos purported to feature actresses and other celebrities.
Farrell and Perlstein argue:
“It might be impossible to stop the advance of this kind of technology. But the relevant algorithms here aren’t only the ones that run on computer hardware. They are also the ones that undergird our too easily hacked media system, where garbage acquires the perfumed scent of legitimacy with all too much ease. Editors, journalists and news producers can play a role here — for good or for bad…Traditional news organizations, fearing that they might be left behind in the new attention economy, struggle to maximize ‘engagement with content.’
This gives them a built-in incentive to spread informational viruses that enfeeble the very democratic institutions that allow a free media to thrive. Cable news shows consider it their professional duty to provide “balance” by giving partisan talking heads free rein to spout nonsense — or amplify the nonsense of our current president.”