Facebook was inundated with deepfaked ads impersonating UK’s Prime Minister

Facebook was inundated with deepfaked ads impersonating UK’s Prime Minister

Facebook was flooded with fake advertisements featuring a deepfaked Rishi Sunak ahead of the UK’s general election that’s expected to take place this year, according to research conducted by communications company Fenimore Harper. The firm found 143 different ads impersonating the UK’s Prime Minister on the social network last month, and it believes the ad may have reached more than 400,000 people. It also said that funding for the ads originated from 23 countries, including Turkey, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States, and that the collective amount of money spent to promote them from December 8, 2023 to January 8, 2024 was $16,500.

As The Guardian notes, one of the fake ads showed a BBC newscast wherein Sunak said that the UK government has decided to invest in a stock market app launched by Elon Musk. That clip then reportedly linked to a fake BBC news page promoting an investment scam. The video, embedded in Fenimore Harper’s website, seems pretty realistic if the viewer doesn’t look too closely at people’s mouths when they speak. Someone who has no idea what deepfakes are could easily be fooled into thinking that the video is legit.

The company says this is the “first widespread paid promotion of a deepfaked video of a UK political figure.” That said, Meta has long been contending with election misinformation on its websites and apps. A spokesperson told The Guardian that the “vast majority” of the adverts were disabled before Fenimore Harper’s report was published and that “less than 0.5 percent of UK users saw any individual ad that did go live.”

Meta announced late last year that it was going to require advertisers to disclose whether the ads they submit have been digitally altered in the event that they’re political or social in nature. It’s going to start enforcing the rule this year, likely in hopes that it can help mitigate the expected spread of fake news connected to the upcoming presidential elections in the US.

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