Industry Insights

Mar 7, 2024

How Deepfakes Impact Our Legal System

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The lifelike realism of synthetic media created using generative AI tools leaves many of our most essential public institutions extremely vulnerable to exploitation through deepfakes.

Inarguably, the judicial system is, by its very nature, a system that can only function on agreed-upon rules of what constitutes facts and evidence. Yet no established evidentiary procedure explicitly governs the presentation of deepfake evidence in court. The existing legal standards for authentication, designed well before generative AI and deepfakes emerged, are demonstrably inadequate. As a result, current safeguards fail to address the urgent problem of how to determine the authenticity of digital audiovisual media, written documents, or any other piece of evidence. This deficiency is particularly concerning at a time when the public continues to lose its trust in the legal system.

The ways in which deepfakes endanger the integrity of court proceedings are numerous and hardly predictable. Deepfake technology is used to create highly convincing fake audio or video recordings, which could be misrepresented as authentic evidence in court cases and manipulate judges and juries. Important documents can be forged via LLMs and deepfake images. Such manipulations can lead to wrongful convictions or acquittals if not detected, causing irreversible devastation for those impacted by the justice system. The same methods can be used to create false video and audio testimony from witnesses and experts. Perhaps the most concerning fact about deepfakes in courts is how far-reaching the consequences could be — for defendants and prosecutors, parties in litigation, judges and lawyers, companies and governments. 

So far, high-profile discussions of deepfakes in court have occurred in surprising contexts: instead of using deepfakes to offer fake evidence, litigants and defendants have used the very existence of deepfakes to argue that authentic media portraying them in compromising positions and hurting their cases “might” be fake. These claims could only be dismissed because the images and videos in question were confirmed to be real. These instances underscore the need for robust standardized verification of digital evidence, as we are bound to see many novel attempts at manipulation that will not be so easily dismissed. 

Why Courtrooms Need Deepfake Detection

Courts often adopt the perspective that evidence verification is the responsibility of the parties presenting it, primarily lawyers. Of course, this approach assumes a good-faith effort, and discounts the rising numbers of people who choose to represent themselves. Considering the catastrophic consequences deepfakes could have for the legal system and people’s confidence in its processes, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that courts — along with law enforcement agencies, law firms, and all other institutions that make up the justice system — will have to employ robust deepfake detection methods in their evidentiary authentication.

The dangers of deepfakes to institutions that have yet to meet these destabilizing risks are the reason Reality Defender’s deepfake detection suite is designed as platform-agnostic and easily integrable into any verification pipeline across institutions and industries. When courts and other public institutions do catch up to the risks of generative AI technology and begin to adopt security measures to protect the integrity of their operations, reliable deepfake detection will be crucial in ensuring that evidentiary verification, the judicial process, and rights of all those who come into contact with it don’t unravel due to a few easy strokes of generative AI manipulation. 

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