9th September 2019

Written by Javier Maquieira (Associate)

Javier Maquieira kicks off the week with a look at AI-powered deepfake technology and the challenges its widespread use may pose in the not-so-distant future.

Good morning,

The number of projects powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing every day. Its application in areas like finance, healthcare, education, or transportation has helped make our lives easier, while data has become more readily accessible thanks to machine learning. As with every ground-breaking innovation that hasn’t been subject to much regulation, however, AI can fit many purposes. In recent months, the debate has especially intensified around the ability of machines to learn to falsify video, imagery and audio by replicating real public figures in quite convincing ways. “Deepfakes”, as this broad range of manipulated video and imagery is known, are not new, but have now become widespread with developments like the Chinese face-swapping app Zao, which brings a technology that used to be expensive and time-consuming to smartphone users around the world. This gives perpetrators of disinformation campaigns new AI-generated digital tools to advance political goals or undermine public trust in media. Luckily, AI is also being used to come up with solutions to the security and legal challenges posed by deepfakes. Most notably, Facebook is committing $10 million to funding the Deepfake Detection Challenge, an initiative that offers grants and prizes to the best fake video detection methods. The challenge will also count on the insight of the University of Oxford, which plans to create deepfake videos that will in turn be used to test the accuracy of Facebook’s detection technology. While big social media platforms feel increasingly pressured to try to prevent fake videos of high-profile politicians from spreading misinformation ahead of major elections like the US presidential vote in 2020, deepfakes remain just one example of what AI-generated technology can achieve for better or for worse. But the development of algorithmic detection capabilities is not enough. More social and psychological research must be conducted in order to understand how we can best inform the public of the challenges ahead, as well as educate old and new generations in telling what is real from what is not.


The former work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, quit Boris Johnson’s cabinet after voicing her opposition to the government’s approach to Brexit. Rudd said that Downing Street was having “conversations” with the EU about a no deal, but no “formal negotiations”, while 80-90% of Brexit work was spent preparing for an “inferior” no-deal option. Therese Coffey has been appointed work and pensions secretary to replace Rudd. The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, is meeting Boris Johnson in Dublin today for talks on the future of the Irish border. Ahead of the meeting, Varadkar has warned the PM that he should not expect any breakthrough. The Irish prime minister has also emphasised that no other EU country shared Britain’s assessment that it was making progress in the negotiations, even when Johnson has claimed to be trying to seek a new Brexit deal. (£) Typhoon Faxai has left more than 100 flights cancelled, 1 million households without power, and transport disrupted across major cities in Japan. The storm, which made landfall early morning in the coastal city of Chiba, moved over Tokyo and paralysed transport, with major underground stations filled with commuters stuck waiting for bullet trains and metro services.

Business & Economy

British Airways passengers have been told to avoid airports ahead of the first ever BA pilots’ strike action during the next two days. The strike, which is expected to be the biggest walkout in the airline’s history, follows a long-running dispute between the British Airline Pilots Association and the company over pay. Despite the willingness from both sides to resume talks, most UK departures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled.  According to KPMG, the UK will plunge into its first recession in a decade if it decides to leave the EU without a deal, leading the British economy to shrink by 1.5% in 2020 and denting consumer spending – the main source of growth in the economy over the last three weeks. The accountancy giant has also forecast that a deal would have the opposite effect, boosting GDP growth to 1.5% next year. Union leaders have launched attacks on Boris Johnson as they reject a no-deal Brexit. Opening the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference in Brighton, TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said unions do not trust the prime minister, while the president of the trade union federation, Mark Serwotka, claimed Johnson was “worse than Thatcher” and appealed for loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn.


The week ahead

Prime minister Boris Johnson is faced with limited options to achieve an October general election ahead of the Brexit deadline. This week, he may need to use persuasion to attempt to secure a new withdrawal agreement with the European Union next month. As he tries to take control of the chaos surrounding his strategy, new resignations are expected. Today, the UK releases its gross domestic data for July, with a 0.1 per cent fall forecast. UK employment data is due on Tuesday, highlighting the creation of 115,000 new jobs in the quarter to June despite Brexit uncertainty. The European Central Bank policy meeting concludes on Thursday, after which officials are projected to cut interest rates and announce plans for economic stimulus measures. The US Federal Reserve is also expected to lower rates. Apple will unveil its latest iPhone models on Tuesday in Silicon Valley, including a new iPhone Pro model with a new third camera lens on its back and wireless charging capabilities. Apple’s services will also be in the spotlight.

Whats happening today?


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UK Economic Announcements

(09:30) Gross Domestic Product (09:30) Index of Services (09:30) Balance of Trade (09:30) Manufacturing Production (09:30) Industrial Production

Intl. Economic Announcements

(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER) (07:00) Current Account (GER) (20:00) Consumer Credit (US)

Columns of Note

In The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle writes that the lack of respect for democratic scrutiny and accountability shown by members of Boris Johnson’s government – including the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the prime minister himself – place them as over-promoted and over-confident politicians. He argues that this is because of the education they have received, which has made them believe they were fit for the very top jobs. While class and gender continue to determine one’s chances to achieve leadership positions, Pringle concludes that society is paying the price of having the wrong people in charge. (£) Petina Gappah opines in The Guardian that the death of Robert Mugabe could mean the start of a healing process in Zimbabwe. However, his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, must put an end to corruption and human right abuses and engage with the millions who feel disenfranchised. Gappah welcomes Mnangagwa’s outward-looking foreign policy but warns him about falling into short-term temptations of power.

Did you know?

During a typical lifetime people spend an average of six years dreaming.

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

Oral questions Education (including Topical Questions) Consideration of Lords amendments If necessary Motions Debate to approve a Motion relating to Section 7 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Historical institutional abuse) Debate to approve a Motion relating to Section 6 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Victims' payment) Debate to approve a Motion relating to Section 5 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Human trafficking) Debate to approve a Motion relating to Section 4 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Gambling) General Debate on a Motion relating to Section 3(2) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Consideration of Lords amendments Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Motion Early Parliamentary General Election Adjournment Local environmental impact of a solar power plant at Cleve Hill - Helen Whately

House of Lords

Oral questions Commercial exploitation of peatlands - Lord Teverson Human rights of intersex citizens of all ages - Baroness Barker Income charities would have received since 17 July had a plastic bag charge on small and medium-sized enterprises been introduced - Lord Hayward Impact of a warming climate on the operational risks of nuclear power stations - Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Legislation High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill - Second reading - Baroness Vere of Norbiton Orders and regulations Draft Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointment Functions) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 - Lord Duncan of Springbank Draft Government of Wales Act 2006 (Amendment) Order 2019 - Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Debate To move that this House takes note of Report Pursuant to Sections 3(1), 3(6), 3(7), 3(8), 3(9) and 3(10) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019; Report Pursuant to Section 3(13) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019; Report Pursuant to Section 3(12) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019; Report Pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 - Lord Duncan of Springbank

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled

TOMORROW House of Commons Oral questions HM Treasury (including Topical Questions) Ten Minute Rule Motion Public Expenditure and Taxation (Advisory Body) - Jonathan Edwards Adjournment 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem - Dan Jarvis House of Lords Oral questions Plans to change the law in respect of the offence of rape - Baroness Kennedy of Cradley The operation of electric scooters in relation to the Road Traffic Acts and pedestrian safety - Lord Naseby Trade continuity agreements to take effect once the UK leaves the EU - Lord Allen of Kensington Regulating the use of facial recognition technology and ensuring appropriate privacy safeguards - Lord Clement-Jones Legislation Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Bill - Second reading - Viscount Younger of Leckie Scottish Parliament Time for Reflection Mr Ameed Versace, Strategic Engagements Director, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society Parliamentary Bureau Motions Ministerial Statement Creating a Sustainable Future for Crofting Scottish Government Debate The Impact of the UK Government's Planned Immigration Policy and Mobility Restrictions on Scotland's University and Scientific Research Sectors Election to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Members’ Business S5M-17240 Edward Mountain: Bullying and Harassment in the NHS