As Election Day approaches, concerns about the influence of deepfakes on elections have grown.

Disinformation and so-called “fake news” have long played a role in politics. Even George Washington fell victim to it in 1777 when forged letters painted him as a British sympathizer — disinformation that followed him to the first presidency.1

In recent years, the internet has amplified the political role of disinformation. Now, the rise of AI deepfake technology now amplifies that role yet more. People with little to no technical expertise can create deepfakes that look and sound increasingly legitimate as AI tools continue to evolve.

Here, we look at the state of deepfakes in the upcoming General Election. Further, look at what we can do as voters to not fall for them.

What is a deepfake?

The textbook definition of a deepfake reads like this:

An image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.2

Looking closely at that definition, three key terms stand out: “altered,” “manipulated,” and “misrepresent.”


This term relates to freely available AI tools. People with little to no technical expertise can create deepfakes that look increasingly legitimate as AI tools continue to evolve.


This speaks to the person using the AI tool. They instruct the AI tool to intentionally create altered images, cloned voices, and phony videos.


Lastly, this gets to the motives of the creator. They might create a deepfake as an obvious spoof, like many of the parody deepfakes that go viral. Or maliciously, they might create a deepfake of a public official spewing hate speech and try to pass it off as real.

Given this definition, it’s important to remember that not all deepfakes are bad. Companies use deepfake technologies to create training videos. Studios use it to dub movie subtitles into other languages. And some content creators just want to get a laugh out of Arnold Schwarzenegger singing showtunes.

Where deepfakes can become harmful and outright malicious is by pushing disinformation. Particularly in an election year.

How deepfakes might be used during the election?

Deepfakes have already appeared in this and recent election cycles:

  • During the New Hampshire primary, a deepfake audio track of President Biden made rounds of robocalls. In the call, the phony message from the President asked voters to “… save your vote for the November election.” That falsely implied that if people vote in the primary, they can’t vote in the November general election.
  •  In 2023, a flood of deepfake images showed former president Donald Trump getting arrested on the streets of New York.3 That, of course, never happened.
  • Also in 2023, a bogus news outlet on X (Twitter) posted a voice clone of a Chicago mayoral candidate that made it appear he advocated police violence.4

Those are only a few quick examples of deepfakes that have appeared so far. We can expect to see far more deepfake audio, deepfake images, and deepfake videos that have public figures saying and doing things they never did. 

And as polling dates get closer, we can expect yet more deepfakes that target voters directly.

  • Potentially, bad actors will spread phony polling info that prevents voters from getting to polling places in a timely way — or at all.
  • On Election Day, we might also see deepfakes that skew polling results, all with the aim of influencing voters.

In all, the bad actors behind these deepfakes aim to do one thing: spread disinformation during the election.

What is disinformation — and misinformation? 

You might see and hear these terms used interchangeably. They’re different, yet they’re closely related. And both will play a role in this election.

  • Disinformation is intentionally spreading misleading info. 
  • Misinformation is unintentionally spreading misleading info (the person sharing the info thinks it’s true). 

This way, you can see how disinformation spreads. A bad actor posts a deepfake with misleading info — a form of disinformation. From there, others take the misleading info at face value and pass it along as truth — a form of misinformation. 

The two work hand-in-hand by design, because bad actors have a solid grasp on how lies spread online.

How do election deepfakes spread?

Outside of texts and robocalls, deepfakes primarily spread on social media. And disinformation there has a way of spreading quickly.

Researchers found that disinformation travels deeper and more broadly, reaches more people, and goes more viral than any other category of false info.

According to the research findings published in Science,

“We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information … Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.” 

Thus, bad actors pump false info about them into social media channels and let people spread it by way of shares, retweets, and the like. 

And convincing deepfakes have only made it easier for bad actors to spread disinformation.

How do I spot a deepfake?

Even as companies and social media platforms begin to roll out deepfake detection technologies, one of the most powerful detection tools you have right now is yourself. Essentially, be your own lie detector.

When deepfake technologies first arrived, many deepfakes gave off telltale signs of manipulation. Blurriness, unnatural lighting effects, and a lack of breath in speech once stood as ways you could spot a deepfake. Increasingly, you can’t count on those signs anymore. The technology has gotten better and continues to get better still.

Deepfakes look and sound increasingly real — particularly as people quickly scroll through their newsfeeds without a great deal of scrutiny.

Yet, that’s exactly what it takes to spot a deepfake. Scrutiny. Everything online calls for it now, and a technique called SIFT can help. It stands for: 

Stop. Don’t take things at immediate face value, especially if you see something that stirs up a strong reaction.

Investigate the source. Who posted it? Is it from a long-standing and reputable source?

Find better coverage. Confirm that what you’re seeing is true with a reputable fact-checking resource.

Trace the media to the original context. Deepfakes manipulate more than images, audio, and video. They manipulate facts. When you come across a claim, check its source and see if the claim matches or manipulates it.

Fact-checking resources for the election.

In addition to the SIFT method, you can turn to one of the several fact-checking organizations and media outlets that check facts. Each day, they assess the latest claims making their way across the internet — and then determine if they’re true, false, or somewhere in between.

In all, these resources provide voters with a quick and ready resource to determine if what they’ve seen or heard is true.

Advice for voters.

In the run-up to Election Day, keep the following in mind as you prepare to vote and follow the results

  1. Seek out voting info from trustworthy sources, such as state and local election officials. Go directly to those same sources for election results.
  2. If you come across reports about problems in voting or election results, search for other reliable sources before sharing such info.
  3. If you think you spotted a deepfake on social media, flag it with the platform’s tools for reporting questionable posts.
  4. Report potential election crimes such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting to state and local government election officials.
  5. Stay sharp. Pay regular visits to fact-checking sites that debunk election disinformation.

Be skeptical. Always.

With AI tools improving so quickly, we can no longer take things at face value. Malicious deepfakes look to deceive, defraud, and disinform. And the people who create them hope you’ll consume their content in one, unthinking gulp. Scrutiny is key today. Fact-checking is a must, particularly as deepfakes look sharper and sharper as AI technology evolves.

Plenty of deepfakes can lure you into sketchy corners of the internet. Places where malware and phishing sites take root. Consider using comprehensive online protection software with McAfee+ to keep safe. In addition to several features that protect your devices, privacy, and identity, they can warn you of unsafe sites too. 



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