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Our view: Rise of fake video requires action

Not yet fully terrified of the internet and associated technologies that allow devious people to create false or outright fake claims?

Then consider this: The ability to manipulate audio and video has come so far in such a short time that mischief-makers now are capable of putting words into the mouths of the world's most famous and influential people.

For example, a real video image of President Trump, Vladimir Putin or any other world leader can be made to say things no leader would ever say. And because the technology behind such hacking has become so advanced, nobody will be the wiser.

As Americans consider so-called fake news, potential interference in elections and so forth, this new form of hacking could revolutionize the level at which hackers can create false messages and attribute them to real-life leaders, movie stars, athletes — or even everyday people, for that matter.

America's trust of facts is about to dip even lower.

A report on CBS News earlier this week showed how versions of falsified audio and video already are coming online. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, told CBS that "the idea that someone could put another person's face on an individual's body ... would be a home run for anyone who wants to interfere in the political process."

Warner said it could be widespread by 2020, if not sooner — possibly even this year.

Imagine a world where a hacker can create a real-looking video of the U.S. president claiming he has launched weapons against another country. Or of a member of Congress claiming some sort of wrongdoing. Or of a famous person making an obscene comment. Cyber-bullying in schools could reach new heights.

In the CBS report, Hany Farid, of Dartmouth College, said the potential is "terrifying."

"Now, I can create the president of the United States saying just about anything," said Farid. "We have a fake news phenomenon that is not going away. And so add to that fake images, fake audio, fake video, and you have an explosion of what I would call an information war."

The Hill — the Washington newspaper that covers Congress — also has reported on the new wave of fake video. In a story published last month, researcher Renee DiResta told the newspaper that "when we can't even agree on the basics of what's real, it becomes increasingly impossible to have the hard conversations necessary to move the country forward."

Too often, technology outpaces reaction. In this case, it could have dire consequences. Lawmakers must react before it's too late.

However, there's one problem. Even as Warner says it's time for the government to step in, he doesn't specific what, exactly, should be done. Separately, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has pushed for more accountability on social media, but not much has yet happened with her efforts.

Nonetheless, Warner told The Hill that the federal government must update laws to address these emerging threats.

It requires action, and quick action at that. This is a serious threat to Americans' trust of facts, news and national security.