South Korean police to fight deepfakes ahead of general election

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Mar. 5, 2024 8:20PM GMT+9

South Korean authorities are ramping up efforts to combat deepfake videos, recognizing these deceptive materials as a significant threat to the integrity of the country’s general election scheduled for April.

The Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) unveiled on Tuesday its adoption of new deepfake detection software, which will be immediately integrated into their investigative processes. The agency clarified that the time required to determine whether digital content has been artificially generated using AI technology could range from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the video’s length and quality.

The newly developed software is based on a dataset comprising 5.2 million data points from 5,400 individuals, including 1 million data points related to South Korean nationals. This initiative aims to address the limitations of current detection tools, which often struggle with accuracy concerning South Korean subjects due to a lack of sufficient data. While the detection tool is intended to serve as a guide during investigations, it has demonstrated an 80% accuracy rate. This implies that for every 10 cases flagged as fake, two might actually be authentic.

Since last June, the police have collaborated with one of the country’s leading artificial intelligence companies to create software aimed at aiding law enforcement in identifying sexually explicit content that has been digitally altered using AI. Given the rapid advancements in technology, which now allow the creation of highly convincing deepfakes of politicians indistinguishable to the naked eye, the South Korean police have decided to expand the application of this new tool. This decision aims to address and mitigate potential risks to the integrity of the upcoming general election.

With the implementation of the revised election law last January, which bans the use of deepfake technology in political campaigns starting 90 days before the election date, the police are set to intensify their efforts in investigating election-related disinformation with the assistance of the new software. An official from the National Office of Investigation at the KNPA remarked, “This is the first deepfake detection software developed by the police. Even last year, deepfake videos were relatively crude, making them easy to identify. However, technology is advancing rapidly, necessitating the development of tools to detect such content.”

As South Korea approaches its general election, the government is increasingly sounding the alarm over election disinformation that could potentially influence voter decisions. According to an exclusive report by the local broadcaster SBS on March 4, the South Korean presidential office engaged in discussions with its United States counterpart last February. The talks focused on collaboration to combat fake news, highlighting the international concern over the impact of disinformation on democratic processes.

South Korea has been collaborating with the U.S. in the battle against disinformation. In December of the previous year, the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding. This agreement stated that both parties would work together to counteract the spread of false information and information operations orchestrated by foreign countries, underscoring their commitment to safeguarding the integrity of information and bolstering defenses against malicious external influences.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.