The Disturbing World of Deepfakes: The Broadsheet

July 25, 2019, 12:34 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Wanda Vázquez is next in line for the governorship in Puerto Rico, the S&P 500 says goodbye to its last all-male board, and deepfakes are getting scarier. Have a terrific Thursday. 


- The deeply disturbing world of deepfakes. While I generally lean toward techno-optimism, it's impossible to ignore the fact that many of our most promising new technologies have been weaponized against women. Think social media, as well as platforms like YouTube, Reddit, and 4Chan, to name a few. Now, add to that list deepfakes, which are the subject of a new Bernhard Warner story for Fortune

Bernhard describes deepfakes as A.I.-driven technology that "puts words in the mouths of people in video or audio clips, conjures convincing headshots from a sea of selfies, and even puts individuals in places they’ve never been, interacting with people they’ve never met." 

And while there's growing (and justified!) concern that the tech could be used to sow political havoc, it's already been turned against women. Actors like Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson have been digitally pasted into porn films, and the app DeepNude was shut down in June after it emerged that it could transform ordinary photos of women into, well, nudes. Virginia has criminalized deepfake revenge porn, and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) recently introduced Congress's bill aimed at regulating the technology.

The tech industry, predictably, does not appear to embrace such moves toward regulation, and is making efforts to manage the tech on its own. But given how that's played out in other arenas, you'll pardon me if I'm skeptical about how effective these initiatives will be. What's more, I struggle to see the positive value of this tech. Bernhard's story mentions that it can be used for mapping (including for driverless cars) and I can certainly see how it could be great for visual effects in movies or video games, or fun to mess with in an Instagram or Snapchat filter. But do those kind of uses really justify the potential dangers? Maybe. Yet as we dive further and further into this age of A.I. and other transformative tech, I hope we all remember: Just because we can, doesn't always mean we should.

Kristen Bellstrom


- #WandaRenuncia? After days of protests over homophobic, sexist, and racist messages in a chat he was found to be a member of, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló finally agreed to step down last night. His replacement as of right now is Wanda Vázquez, secretary of justice (equivalent to an attorney general). Vázquez worked as an attorney on domestic and sexual violence cases and led Puerto Rico's office of women's affairs, but faced criticism from women's activists during her tenure. She has battled various political scandals and her ascension to the governorship is not entirely guaranteed. New York Times

- More than zero. The very last company on the S&P 500 with an all-male board of directors, Copart Inc., appointed CyrusOne CFO Diane Morefield to its board, ending that practice among those 500 companies. On a downer note: the Fortune 500 differs slightly from the S&P 500, and there are still a handful of companies on our list with zero women in board seats. Bloomberg

- Alive and well. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives one of her first interviews since her bout with lung cancer last year. To those who thought she'd be gone from the bench, she says, "I am very much alive." And when asked to cite her greatest accomplishments, she names not any decisions on the Supreme Court but her work fighting for gender equality as a lawyer in the 1960s and '70s. NPR

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Arianna Huffington resigned from Uber's board of directors. Christine Park joins sports participation platform Strava as CFO. 


- Tied up. Earlier this week, 28 women were elected to the upper house of Japan's Parliament, tying a record set three years ago. Some in the opposition thought the number of female candidates encouraged to run this year would loosen Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hold on power, but the 16 women elected outside his coalition didn't flip that ratio. Wall Street Journal

- A scary recall. Allergan issued a recall for its textured breast implants after the FDA linked those implants to a rare form of lymphoma. There have been 573 cases of the cancer reported, an increase of 116 cases since February; 84% of those have been connected to the implants. The FDA does not recommend removal for women not displaying symptoms. Fortune

- What it takes. Take some time with these photos and interviews about childcare, or "what—and who—it takes to raise a family." From the sisters who rely on their parents to the parents who took pay cuts to spend more time at home, everyone in these families shares their stories. California Sunday Magazine

- Ciao, Claire's? Does ear piercing need to be disrupted? Louisa Schneider has raised $4 million for her company Rowan, a direct-to-consumer ear piercing startup that brings the ritual from the mall to your home. Vox 

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. Share it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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