An MSNBC panel said it was "time to get scared" and called so-called "deepfake" videos a possible "existential threat" in an alarmist segment on Wednesday.
Since a pair of "edited" Nancy Pelosi videos were shared by President Donald Trump and some of his allies last month, media members are waking up to the idea that not everything on the internet can be trusted.
"Time to get scared," MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle said, leading off the segment.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing next week on "deepfakes," a term for videos manipulated by artificial intelligence that either create or alter content that did not actually occur. NBC News technology reporter Ben Collins said the trend was "very scary" due to the ability to create a false narrative overnight.
"I would bet in the October of 2020 that we're going to have a pretty bad event because you have months and months to make these things, make them pitch perfect, and by the time somebody debunks it and says this is not real, it's going to be kind of a nightmare for us as a democracy," he said.
Axios financial correspondent Felix Salmon said it was unclear what Congress could do about the trend, even if it wanted to.
"There's no legislation in front of Congress, or even being drafted," he said. "No one even knows what the legislation could say."
"Why wouldn't the Congress want to create such legislation?" Ruhle asked.
"Right now no one really knows what the legislation would say," Salmon repeated. "You don't want to make CGI movies illegal. So the question is how do you construct legislation to outlaw deepfakes? It's nontrivial."
Ruhle falsely said President Donald Trump had posted the video of Pelosi slowed down to sound drunk—he did share a montage of her tripping over her words that didn't alter her language—before fretting that people will call "real videos" fake as a result of inaction.
"You and I won't even know anymore what's real," she said.
Collins said the "existing threat is scarier than the one that's coming." Besides videos that can be edited to create humorous or false impressions—which has been done since the advent of the internet—he gave the example of a Reddit user falsely claiming a video of a five-year-old fistfight was a new one of a Trump supporter being beat up. Again, lying on the internet is not a new trend.
"People will get an idea of what reality is that just isn't true," Collins said, giving another example of a replier to a Trump tweet saying a video of Trump fans in the United Kingdom was actually in the United States. "This is the larger existential threat. We have an existing problem we have not dealt with and we have this other thing on top of it that's much scarier and harder to find."
Ruhle dramatically ended the segment by saying media relationships matter.
"You've got to figure out who you can trust," she said.