Press Release

Monday, July 8, 2019

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- There's a race to defuse a powerful political weapon: computer-generated fake videos. Researchers at UC Berkeley are leading the charge to fight the fake news technology.

Millions of people saw distorted video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, posted to social media in May. Simple edits to the video, made it sound like Pelosi was drunkenly slurring her words, when she was not.

"That really wreaks havoc on democracy, on society and our personal safety," said Hany Farid, a Computer Science Professor at UC Berkeley.

Farid and graduate student, Shruti Agarwal, are developing software to combat deepfake technology -- content synthesized through artificial intelligence.

An example of a deepfake video, can be seen in filmmaker Jordan Peele's PSA from 2018 about the danger of the videos.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Homelessness has come to California’s public colleges, just as it has to every other institution in the state. In the community college system, a recent report found that 19% of nearly 40,000 students surveyed had been homeless at some point during the previous year. Some community college campuses have food banks, and all are required by law to make showers in their athletic facilities available to homeless students. But few of the 114 community college campuses offer housing to any of their 2.1 million students, let alone homeless ones.

So Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) has come up with a creative idea: Why not let homeless students who live in their cars park overnight on campus? Although that’s not a solution for homelessness, it would offer a short-term fix for homeless students with cars who are already working on a long-term answer — getting a college degree to broaden their options and increase their earning power.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California lawmaker is proposing to restrict the sharing of manipulated videos depicting politicians amid mounting concerns that increasingly convincing "deep fakes" could give rise to misinformation in the approaching 2020 election.

But as policy makers grapple with an emerging technology, proposals to regulate videos have spurred debate about free speech and the government's role in regulating political discourse.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, a Democrat from Palo Alto, Calif., has proposed a law barring anyone from distributing audio or video of a candidate they know is altered to mislead voters, unless the material includes a disclaimer that is was manipulated.

The proposed law would only apply to the 60 days before an election. A candidate depicted in a "deep fake" could take a person spreading the offending material to court.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) released the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s decision to abandon its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday dropped its plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, a decision a local state assemblyman lauded as a "huge victory."

The action came in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week in which the panel by a 5-4 vote said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's stated reason for including the question — allegedly to aid voting rights enforcement — "seems to have been contrived."

The high court said the agency could not include the question unless it was supported by a reasoned explanation.

The decision to drop the question was confirmed by the Commerce Department, which conducts the once-a-decade population count.

Ross said in a statement, "I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling. ... The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With the 2020 election cycle picking up steam, a California lawmaker is seeking to protect candidates from fake social media videos he believes have the potential to change election outcomes.

Known as deepfakes, the videos and images are edited to pass fictitious events or scenes on as real ones. The deceptive technology came to the forefront during the 2016 presidential election and more recently a doctored video that made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk during a speech was shared millions of times on social media.

In a move tinged with free speech implications, Assemblyman Marc Berman wants to give candidates the ability to sue individuals and organizations that share deepfakes without warning labels near Election Day.