“The People Onscreen Are Fake. The Disinformation Is Real.”


In one video, a news anchor with perfectly combed dark hair and a stubbly beard outlined what he saw as the United States’ shameful lack of action against gun violence.

In another video, a female news anchor heralded China’s role in geopolitical relations at an international summit meeting.

But something was off. Their voices were stilted and failed to sync with the movement of their mouths. Their faces had a pixelated, video-game quality and their hair appeared unnaturally plastered to the head. The captions were filled with grammatical mistakes.

The two broadcasters, purportedly anchors for a news outlet called Wolf News, are not real people. They are computer-generated avatars created by artificial intelligence software. And late last year, videos of them were distributed by pro-China bot accounts on Facebook and Twitter, in the first known instance of “deepfake” video technology being used to create fictitious people as part of a state-aligned information campaign.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this in the wild,” said Jack Stubbs, the vice president of intelligence at Graphika, a research firm that studies disinformation. Graphika discovered the pro-China campaign, which appeared intended to promote the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and undercut the United States for English-speaking viewers.

“Deepfake” technology, which has progressed steadily for nearly a decade, has the ability to create talking digital puppets. The A.I. software is sometimes used to distort public figures, like a video that circulated on social media last year falsely showing Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, announcing a surrender. But the software can also create characters out of whole cloth, going beyond traditional editing software and expensive special effects tools used by Hollywood, blurring the line between fact and fiction to an extraordinary degree.

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“Georgia panel: Reforms, resources needed for election review”


A process recently implemented by Georgia state lawmakers to examine how county officials handle elections is likely unsustainable without more resources or reforms, according to the panel that did the first review under the law.

The provision in a sweeping 2021 election overhaul allows state lawmakers who represent a given county to request a review of local election officials and their practices. That sets in motion a process that ultimately could lead to the replacement of county election officials by the State Election Board….

Members of the panel told the state board on Tuesday that it would, perhaps, be more useful to implement a more positive, proactive and periodic review process to help counties fix problems before they become systemic.

“It is better to be a partner than an adversary, better to improve systems before dysfunction than trying to fix them after the fact,” Day said.

He suggested several possible approaches: a review process using retired election officials, or volunteers run through the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials; hiring outside consultants to do reviews; or having paid staff within the secretary of state’s office that travels to all 159 counties for reviews. But he said that all of those options require funding and called on state lawmakers to adequately fund the secretary of state’s office.

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Eighth Circuit refuses to bar Minnesota Attorney General’s subpoenas against WinRed

An opinion in WinRed Inc. v. Ellison written by Judge Benton, joined by Chief Judge Smith (with some excerpts, below, lightly edited). (Judge Shepherd, “writing separately,” argues the case is not ripe for review and the court lacks jurisdiction.)

Continue reading Eighth Circuit refuses to bar Minnesota Attorney General’s subpoenas against WinRed
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“Santos’ unusual $199.99 campaign expenses are putting scrutiny on his longtime treasurer”


In the fall of 2020, then-New York Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign submitted a report to federal regulators with a series of unusual expenses: 21 payments on a single day of exactly $199.99 each. The outlays – each just one penny below the dollar figure above which campaigns are required to keep receipts – all went to anonymous recipients.

It’s a pattern that has emerged recently in the filings of another New York Republican politician: Embattled freshman Rep. George Santos.

The Zeldin and Santos congressional campaigns had one more thing in common: They shared a treasurer, Nancy Marks.

The Long Island-based consultant is now in the spotlight as Santos faces multiple investigations over his finances and repeated lies about his resume and biography.

On January 31, Marks informed the Federal Election Commission that she had left her post after a little more than three years and two campaigns working with Santos. But her resignation is not likely to shield her from scrutiny, legal experts say. The FEC reports Marks filed on behalf of Santos’ campaign are the subject of complaints centered on allegations that records were falsified in violation of federal law.

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“Who benefits from voter identification laws?”

Jeffrey J. Harden  and Alejandra Campos in PNAS. Abstract:

In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, many American state governments implemented voter identification (ID) laws for elections held in their states. These laws, which commonly mandate photo ID and/or require significant effort by voters lacking ID, sparked an ongoing national debate over the tension between election security and access in a democratic society. The laws’ proponents—primarily politicians in the Republican Party—claim that they prevent voter fraud, while Democratic opponents denounce the disproportionate burden they place on historically disadvantaged groups such as the poor and people of color. While these positions may reflect sincerely held beliefs, they also align with the political parties’ rational electoral strategies because the groups most likely to be disenfranchised by the laws tend to support Democratic candidates. Are these partisan views on the impact of voter ID correct? Existing research focuses on how voter ID laws affect voter turnout and fraud. But the extent to which they produce observable electoral benefits for Republican candidates and/or penalize Democrats remains an open question. We examine how voter ID impacts the parties’ electoral fortunes in races at the state level (state legislatures and governorships) and federal level (United States Congress and president) during 2003 to 2020. Our results suggest negligible average effects but with some heterogeneity over time. The first laws implemented produced a Democratic advantage, which weakened to near zero after 2012. We conclude that voter ID requirements motivate and mobilize supporters of both parties, ultimately mitigating their anticipated effects on election results.

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“Trump Charges in Georgia Over 2020 Could Lead to Bigger Fed Case”


The first major criminal charges that Donald Trump could face for interfering in the 2020 election might come from Atlanta — and what happens in Georgia isn’t expected to stay in Georgia.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her decision is “imminent” on whether to indict the former president, which would make him the first US president charged with a crime. That decision will have a ripple effect on the Justice Department’s special counsel probe and other investigations circling Trump.

If Willis goes first, that case would road-test possible testimony, helping to determine what evidence holds up in court and providing a blueprint for prosecutions involving other battleground states where Trump and his supporters tried to undermine President Joe Biden’s win.

Legal experts say nothing stops a US special counsel overseeing the federal Trump probe rom pursuing similar charges at the federal level, regardless of what Willis ultimately does.

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