Are voice clones the latest disinformation threat?

In an era of disinformation, holding onto what we mean by ‘truth’ can be increasingly challenging.  A decade ago, Photoshop might have been used to manipulate images, for example, by adding in a person to a photo who was not present or replacing the background of a photo.  Such efforts were rather clunky and mostly used for entertainment rather than anything more nefarious or practical.  However, as computing power and technology has improved, the potential threat (from criminality or to our notion of objective truth) grows but so too do opportunities (vastly improved assistive technologies or reproducing interactions with a dear departed loved ones).

Most people will have heard of ‘deep fakes’ whereby video is somehow manipulated and one aspect is the ability to develop AI-driven fake voices. For example, in 2019, the CEO of a UK-based energy firm was defrauded of €220,000 after having thought he was speaking to his group CEO.  More prominently, the decision by the director of the new movie Roadrunner to use AI to recreate the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s voice but not disclose that this was done provoked much outrage.  This week, BBC’s Analysis programme tackled the issue of voice cloning as did .  How should we respond to potential threats? The EU has perhaps done the most work on the subject,  but they are not alone and a number of other countries have tried to address the subject as part of broader efforts on combatting disinformation. This leaves us with some questions to start the discussion:

What do you think are the biggest challenges associated with deepfakes from a policy perspective?

Is voice cloning somehow distinct from other types of deepfake and if so, how?

How feasible and/or desirable is it to regulate deepfakes?

We often dwell on the negatives, but discuss some of the more positive aspects of deepfakes and whether you think voice cloning, for example, will be a net benefit or a net detriment?

Green Industrial Revolutions, Ten Point Plans, Goals and Agenda Setting

This week, the British Government released its 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’ (you can read the press release, which was actually the only information available for the first 24 hours!).  The plan claims to ‘mobilise £12 billion of government investment, and potentially 3 times as much from the private sector, to create and… Continue Reading

Will the vaccine(s) be successful?

Vaccines have had a transformative impact on global public health.  Despite many decades of progress, however, there remain important challenges associated with immunisation. Determining whether a vaccine will be successful involves resolving important questions regarding vaccine effectiveness, distribution and uptake.  There are currently at least seven COVID-19 vaccine candidates at the phase-three stage, which involves… Continue Reading

How safe is our data?

In 2017, The Economist famously highlighted an oft-cited metaphor of Data as the New Oil to describe the growing centrality of data to the global economy (others assert it is not).  More recently, The Economist have re-evaluated and asked whether data is more like oil or sunlight. Whatever the appropriate metaphor, there is little doubt… Continue Reading

The Role of Institutions in Shaping Economic and Climate Outcomes

This month, the International Monetary Fund released its revised World Economic Outlook for 2020.  It is worth taking a look through their current release, which although describing a dire forecast for 2020 is actually significantly improved on its expectations from just a few months earlier. In Europe, the hardest-hit countries were Spain (-12.8%), Italy (-10.6%),… Continue Reading

Regulating Big Tech

Christos sent along a recent blog post he recently wrote with other leading European economists on the Google-Fitbit deal as the topic for this week’s discussion since we will be covering competition policy in both TP1 and TP2 (and will return to in TP6 in Easter term).  What is particularly worrisome they point out is… Continue Reading

Do Prizes Work?

On Thursday (8 October), Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Sir David Attenborough launched a £50m “Earthshot Prize”, which, they claim to be “the biggest environmental award ever”, and which, they hope, will become the equivalent of a “Nobel Prize for environmentalism”.  The initial commitment is for five £1m prizes every year for 10… Continue Reading