Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg gets ‘deepfake’ treatment in activist ad


The ad comes amid a crescendo of lobbying over landmark antitrust legislation that would prevent the biggest tech companies – Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Meta – from abusing their market dominance. — Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP

An activist group will launch an ad campaign Tuesday featuring a fake video of Meta Platforms Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg thanking Congress for failing to take action against the biggest tech companies.

In the ad, an actor playing the top-hatted character from the Monopoly board game morphs into Zuckerberg. He says a piece of antitrust legislation aimed at diminishing the power of the tech giants is "about to fade away.” The footage is a "deepfake,” or a video that uses artificial intelligence to make someone appear to do or say something they didn’t.

The ad comes amid a crescendo of lobbying over landmark antitrust legislation that would prevent the biggest tech companies – Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Meta – from abusing their market dominance. The supporters of the legislation are hoping to push Congress to pass the bill by the end of this year, before a likely GOP majority takes over. Top Republicans have signaled that the legislation would fail in a GOP House.

The major tech companies and their trade groups have spent more than US$120 million (RM537mil) on advertising against the bill.

"Big tech is the golden goose that keeps giving and giving and giving,” Zuckerberg, who is labeled as fake, says in the ad. Referring to lawmakers, he says "We let them pretend to hate us out on the stump, but in Congress, they’re some of our strongest defenders.”

The ad, which was created by left-leaning digital rights group Demand Progress, will run in New York and Washington. The group, which doesn’t reveal its donors, didn’t disclose how much it is spending on the campaign. A 30 second version will run on TV while a longer one will appear online.

Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide whether to bring the measure to a vote before the current Congress’s term expires and the new Congress takes over on Jan. 3.

The ad campaign’s deepfake is a particularly sore subject for Meta’s Facebook, which faced a wave of criticism over its refusal to take down manipulated video footage of Pelosi that appeared to show her slurring her words in 2019. The incident spurred increased scrutiny of the platform’s plans to handle deepfakes, which are expected to become increasingly popular as the technology improves. – Bloomberg

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