This episode features two interviews. The first focuses on extremism, law enforcement and social media monitoring, and the second on what news that an AI voice clone was used to generate segments of a new Anthony Bourdain documentary tells us about the future of synthetic media.
The January 6 insurrection was preceded by weeks of online promotion and planning- including from former President Donald Trump, who told his supporters the event would be wild. What should the FBI have known in advance, and how does social media monitoring play out in the FBI in practice?
To get an expert opinion on these issues and what they mean for the effort to curb domestic extremism, I spoke to Clint Watts, a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Non-Resident Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. He is also a national security contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, and author of the book Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News. Previously, Clint served as a U.S. Army infantry officer, a FBI Special Agent, as the Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point , as a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division and National Security Branch, and as an analyst supporting the U.S. Intelligence Community and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Second, to contemplate the future of synthetic media and the safeguards that need to be in place in a world of voice clones and deep fakes we speak with Sam Gregory, Program Director of WITNESS, a nonprofit which helps people use video and technology to protect human rights. Sam is an expert on synthetic media and ethics, and recently wrote a piece in Wired arguing the world needs more such experts to address the looming problems posed by these new technologies, which offer enormous creative potential along with frightening epistemic implications.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.