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Singapore

SM Lee alerts public to dangerous deepfake videos on international issues

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  • Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong warns of malicious deepfake videos featuring him commenting on international matters
  • The deepfakes discuss sensitive geopolitical issues and could harm Singapore's national interests
  • Public urged to verify content, avoid sharing suspicious videos, and report deepfakes to platform authorities

In an era of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence and digital manipulation technologies, even high-ranking government officials are not immune to the threats posed by deepfakes. Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong has recently issued a stark warning to the public about malicious deepfake videos circulating online that falsely depict him commenting on international relations and foreign leaders.

On Thursday, June 27, 2024, Senior Minister Lee took to Facebook to alert Singaporeans about the emergence of deceptive deepfake videos featuring his likeness. These sophisticated fabrications show the senior statesman apparently discussing sensitive topics related to foreign affairs, potentially jeopardizing Singapore's diplomatic standing.

"The motive of these deepfakes may not be commercial, but their malicious intent is clear," SM Lee stated in his post. He emphasized the dangerous nature of these videos, explaining that "Someone behind them wants to make it seem that these are views supported by me or the Singapore government. This is dangerous and potentially harmful to our national interests."

The Nature of the Deepfake Videos

The deepfake videos in question have been circulating on popular social media platforms, including TikTok. They manipulate footage from official events, such as the 2022 National Day Rally and SM Lee's final interview as Prime Minister, to create convincing but entirely fabricated content.

These videos reportedly show SM Lee discussing complex geopolitical issues, including:

  • US-China relations
  • Tensions in the South China Sea
  • The relationship between superpowers and the Philippines

The level of sophistication in these deepfakes is concerning, as they have managed to garner significant viewership. One video posted on TikTok two days prior to SM Lee's warning had already amassed over 146,000 views, while another, posted six days earlier, had been played more than 190,000 times.

The Dangers of Deepfake Technology

Deepfake technology, which uses artificial intelligence to create or manipulate audio and video content, has become increasingly advanced and accessible. This development poses significant risks to public figures, institutions, and even national security.

SM Lee highlighted the potential consequences of these deceptive videos: "People watching the video may be fooled into thinking that I really said those words," he warned. The implications of such misattribution could be far-reaching, potentially damaging Singapore's carefully cultivated international relationships and diplomatic standing.

How to Identify and Report Deepfakes

In light of these threats, SM Lee provided guidance to the public on how to approach and respond to suspected deepfake content:

Always verify the authenticity of videos, especially those featuring public figures discussing sensitive topics.

Refrain from sharing suspicious videos, even if the intent is to debunk them, as this may inadvertently spread misinformation.

Report suspicious content directly to the respective platform where it appears.

SM Lee emphasized, "Don't share them, not even to tell people that they are fake, as viewers may not read your comment and wrongly assume that the videos are real."

Accessing Authentic Content

To help the public distinguish between genuine and fabricated content, SM Lee directed citizens to official sources for authentic videos featuring him. These include:

  • The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) YouTube channel
  • The PMO website
  • Other official government media sites

By referring to these verified sources, Singaporeans can ensure they are accessing accurate and authorized information.

A Broader Pattern of Deepfake Scams

This incident is not isolated, as SM Lee and other Singaporean officials have been targeted by deepfake scams in the past. In December 2023, a similar warning was issued regarding a deepfake video that appeared to show SM Lee promoting a cryptocurrency investment scheme.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also recently cautioned the public about malicious scammers sending emails in his name, highlighting the diverse tactics employed by cybercriminals.

Government Response and Public Vigilance

The Singapore government has been proactive in addressing the growing threat of deepfakes and online scams. Authorities have established resources to help citizens protect themselves, including:

  • The ScamAlert website (https://www.scamalert.sg/)
  • An Anti-Scam hotline (1800-722-6688)
  • The ScamShield Bot on WhatsApp (go.gov.sg/scamshield-bot)

As deepfake technology continues to evolve, the need for public awareness and vigilance becomes increasingly crucial. SM Lee's warning serves as a timely reminder of the potential dangers posed by digital manipulation and the importance of critical thinking when consuming online content.

By staying informed, verifying sources, and reporting suspicious content, Singaporeans can play an active role in combating the spread of misinformation and protecting the nation's interests in the digital age.

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