Return to Transcripts main page
Political Earthquake In San Francisco; Hillary Clinton Is Back; Woman's Sexual Assault DNA Allegedly Used To Arrest Her For Other Crime; Study: People Find Deep Fake Faces More Trustworthy. Aired 9- 10a ET
Aired February 19, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: A political earthquake in San Francisco. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.
The headlines tell a similar tale, but do they tell the full story? What's been reported is a canary in a coal mine. A local election seen as a harbinger of looming defeat for Democrats in the national midterm elections.
As "The Washington Post" sought, quote, "In San Francisco, the latest battle among Democrats over how far left the party should move came to a resounding conclusion as voters this week fired three school board members who veered too close to the edge even in a city that is a bastion of liberal activism."
Then there was Michael Bloomberg who tweeted, "The San Francisco school board recall should be a wake up call to elected officials - especially Democrats - across the nation: Parents are fed up with the status quo that put adults ahead of kids and ideology ahead of results."
Former Obama strategist David Axelrod wrote, "Parents should absolutely be involved in the schools their kids attend. Politicians absolutely should not!"
And in "The Wall Street Journal," this is what Peggy Noonan had to say. "Joe Biden received 85 percent of the vote in San Francisco in 2020. Those board members just lost their seats by more than 70 percent. A cultural rebellion within the Democratic Party has begun."
What we know for sure is that in America's most progressive city, there was a unique recall election that resulted in three school board members losing their jobs. And, by the way, in a moment, you're going to meet the couple who started it all.
Fed up with COVID school closures, voters decisively ousted three of the board's seven members with between 72 and 79 percent of the vote. Three issues drove the campaign against the board members.
One, the board attempted to rename 44 schools to remove any politically incorrect honorees, among them George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, even seating Senator Dianne Feinstein. Two, the board sought to replace a merit-based admission system for the low high school, where now in forgiving immigrants a path to a better life and replacing it with a lottery seeking the student body more reflective of its district.
And three, while working hard on numbers one and two, the board kept schools closed for 18 months during the pandemic, expressing little concern about the harm that this did to students' educations.
The recall effort raised $2 million. Some from conservative sources while the defense of the board members raised only $86,000. Even the city's mayor, London Breed, a Democrat, who get to appoint the replacements had endorsed the recall calling the board's priorities, quote, "severely misplaced."
But the hometown newspaper, the "San Francisco Chronicle" cautions outside observers as to what really went down. They say, "It's easy to drool over the story line that the most progressive city in America just ousted three progressive school board members. But disagreements over politics had little to do with San Francisco parents' decision to push for the first local recall in 39 years. Many in fact, agreed with the broader goals of the three ousted board members. There were disputes over methodology, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a recall supporter who didn't speak openly about wanting to close the racial achievement gaps in academic performance."
And here is what Governor Gavin Newsom said about this just last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I think we can overread this from a national prism. It's a very familiar San Francisco story, west side, east side, very familiar tenets that I think one should be cautious in terms of overreading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, the couple who started the movement. Siva Raj who has kids in the district and his partner, Autumn Looijen, who were key to getting the recall effort on the ballot.
Autumn, let me begin with you. You are not exactly old San Francisco PULSE, right? You're relative newcomers to the community?
AUTUMN LOOIJEN, CO-FOUNDER, RECALL SF SCHOOL BOARD CAMPAIGN: That's right, we moved here December 2020.
SMERCONISH: And decided nonetheless to get involved in this issue, Autumn, why?
LOOIJEN: Well, in our family, we have kids in two different school districts. And when we saw the difference between my kids' experience, they're back in school, and Siva's kids' experience, his high school did not -- his high schooler did not go back to school all year long. It was just frustrating. It was unfair. [09:05:00]
SMERCONISH: Siva, I know that you both paid close attention to the way in which the board was then handling the pandemic situation. What was it that you saw that you disagreed with?
SIVA RAJ, CO-FOUNDER, RECALL SF SCHOOL BOARD CAMPAIGN: I think the key issue for us was that the school district was supposed to reopen in Jan of 2021. And then come Jan, I get this e-mail from the district saying - and then you saw on the bottom of that e-mail is a bullet point that says middle and high school kids will not go back to school this year, which is essentially what happened.
And then I started kind of log into these Zoom meetings and these would go on for like nine hours and you know I've been waiting seven hours to speak about reopening literally, you know, when you get 30 minutes in midnight.
And so they quickly realized, the school district not only did not have the intent and not done the work. So the school sites were not ready for reopening, the testing infrastructure was not in place, the MAU with the teachers union was not signed. So all of that work which should have been done in the summer of 2020, if not through the fall, had not been done.
SMERCONISH: So, Autumn, in the end was it about ideology or incompetence?
LOOIJEN: It was about incompetence. I think almost everyone in San Francisco was in favor of renaming schools, back to racist, everyone in San Francisco wants to close the opportunity gap. And the problem was that this work wasn't being done in -- at the right time. You know, the house was on fire, and they were busy, you know, changing the name above the door. And we're like, hey, we got to go take care of the fire first. And then we'll do the renaming. We all want to do renaming, just not right now.
RAJ: In fact, there's actually expanding educational equity gap that ultimately existence and we just go, we saw kids from disadvantaged backgrounds actually fall the farthest behind.
SMERCONISH: I know, Siva, with regard to your son, for example, you saw significant change in terms of what was going on with Autumn's children in a neighboring school district and the ongoing lack of interest, I guess I would say. You tell it better, because I only know from what I've read afar, but in your own house, you said, hey, this is just not working.
RAJ: And through 2020 as this was planning by dawn, you know, my older guy who used to be an honor student basically fell rock bottom in terms of his grades. And he was also borderline depressed, which for me, was the bigger concern. And there's a lot of kids like him who were having mental health issues. We got a record number of, you know, admissions, for example, for teenagers through, you know, as the pandemic extended, right? And so, he's barely, you know, eating two meals a day, not getting out of bed, et cetera. And so, for me, you know, getting him back to some sort of an in- person learning experience was important. And the school district did not prioritize that. And I think the real challenge here was the total disconnect between what we were seeing on the ground, the struggle and the suffering we were seeing in our own homes with our kids and the school districts on dealing this, even acknowledge that this was a problem, let alone, you know, act on it and make a good faith.
For the other school districts in the Bay Area, they have similar codes rates, they have similar challenges, they have similar funding, all managed to get their act together, except for San Francisco.
LOOIJEN: Yes, it was kind of --
SMERCONISH: Autumn, what do you make of the national - what do you make of the national coverage? You heard me summarize some of it. Believe me, I could have gone on and on and on with other examples in terms of what everyone wants to read. But here you are, the two organizers who started the movement that led to the recall. What's the message?
LOOIJEN: The message is you got to do your job because the best social justice -- good education is the best social justice.
RAJ: Yes. And I think what we heard from, you know, throughout this, we've collected signatures from 8,000 people, right? We've spoken to so many thousand others while canvassing. The single dominant message that we heard from people on the streets of San Francisco is that we expect our elected leaders to put the children first, right? The only ideology that matters is the one that makes the biggest impact on their educational outcomes.
LOOIJEN: Because that changes people's lives.
RAJ: And especially in an incredibly diverse school district which is what San Francisco is, so many kids, and so many different challenges, so many different needs, we need elected leaders who can actually bring us together.
LOOIJEN: And it shouldn't be too hard because we all want the same thing.
LOOIJEN: We all want excellent neighborhood schools.
RAJ: I mean, there's one common thread that everybody wants is that they want the best thing for the kids. They want the kids to have a good education and therefore build a successful life. And so, it's not too difficult to -- you know, solve for that problem.
SMERCONISH: I think that you're both the embodiment of all politics being local. Final question, what's next? Because I know that only three of the board members were able to be subject to a recall. Given their length of tenure. Do you intend to move forward with regard to the other four or any other political issue, or are you done?
LOOIJEN: Right now, our first priority is to get good candidates in place to replace the folks who were just recalled. After that, we're going to go back to our community and ask them what they want to do.
RAJ: We are much of last words efforts, so we have nearly 1,400 members of the community, in our case to prove, almost 10,000 people. So every key decision we make, we make with them. So we will go back and ask them if they have ideas about which candidates should go. We will screen these candidates, offer them to the mayor. And then post the next question if they want to actually put anyone else on the recall.
SMERCONISH: Siva, Autumn, thank you so much for getting up early for us. We really appreciate it. Good luck with your kids.
LOOIJEN: Thank you.
RAJ: Thank you. And thanks for having us.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program.
From the world of Twitter. What do we have?
It appears San Francisco Democrats solve the problem. They should not be renaming schools, et cetera, and members of their own party did something about it.
Jane Ann, I think it's a little more complicated than that. I mean, what I'm taking away from Siva and from Autumn, is that they agree with that issue, right? The renaming issue which doesn't make sense to me in many respects but OK. But that's not what this was about. It was about prioritization, or as my parents would have said, time and a place. The time and place for a conversation about renaming schools is after the pandemic. That's me trying to read in as to what they were just saying. But I love hearing what they had to say because indeed all politics are local. And yet so many, I'll say, of us want to read in, you know, the lesson of San Francisco.
Up ahead. This week, Hillary Clinton gave a rousing speech to New York Democrats. Is she ready to get back into the ring? I will ask Democratic consultant Doug Schoen who was greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism just last month when he predicted this very development.
And this video of Paris Hilton and Tom Cruz enjoying breakfast cereal is very convincing. Hilton is real. But take a look at Tom Cruz. That's a digital deepfake. And a new study has found that people find deepfake faces more trustworthy than real human beings.
Plus, survivors of sexual assault often provide law enforcement with their DNA to help catch their predators. But what if that same sample is later used to charge the survivor with a different crime? That's what just happened to a woman in California.
And it leads me to this week's survey question. Go to my website at smerconish.com and answer this week's question. Should the DNA of a woman's rape kit later be used to identify her as a suspect in another crime?
SMERCONISH: There was scoffing and some outrage in many quarters when my next guest pitched back in January that a Hillary Clinton comeback might be the Democrat's best hope for the 2024 election.
Well, after Clinton came on stage in New York, Thursday, to the song "Unstoppable" and delivered a speech to the state's Democrats, the prediction is now looking rather prescient.
As the "New York Post" puts it, "Hillary Clinton sounded an awful lot like a presidential candidate Thursday during a speech to New York Democrats that mentioned Donald Trump, Jan. 6 and Fox News more times than Gov. Kathy Hochul - whom she was ostensibly there to endorse."
Here's some of what Secretary Clinton had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't get distracted, whether it's by the latest culture war nonsense or some new right-wing lie on Fox or Facebook. By the way, they've been coming after me again lately, in case you might have noticed. It's funny, the more trouble Trump gets into, the wilder the charges and conspiracy theories about me seem to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now is Douglas Schoen. He's a Democratic pollster whose past clients include Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg. He was the co-author of the recent book "America: Unite or Die."
Doug, in January, you and Andrew Stein, quote, "A perfect storm in the Democratic Party is making a once-unfathomable scenario plausible: a political comeback for Hillary Clinton in 2024."
Is this what you had in mind?
DOUGLAS SCHOEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's exactly what I had in mind. This is a relaunch of Secretary Clinton. This was a partisan stemwinder. She did not feel with any of the allegations that stemmed from the interim report from the Durham report. And she attacked Donald Trump. She attacked the Republicans and she attacked Fox News.
SMERCONISH: Is there any other reason she'd be in that venue? I mean I guess one would say, she loves her country. She's unhappy with the climate. She wants to be heard. But instead, you read more into this. SCHOEN: Yeah, I don't think she would have shown up to endorse Governor Kathy Hochul, if she did not have more broader and more grand ambitions. Moreover, it was a speech, Michael, that was much broader than about New York politics. Indeed, it was a speech about the Republican Party and the corruption of Donald Trump that she strived being responsible for the attacks on her. So she's setting up the narrative for a case of the 2016 election.
SMERCONISH: Well, to your point, let's watch some more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: So now his accountants have fired him, and investigations draw closer to him and right on cue, the noise machine gets turned up, doesn't it? Fox leads the charge with accusations against me counting on their audience to fall for it again. And as an aside, they're getting awfully close to actual malice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But, Doug, if she runs, it means that Joe Biden is not seeking re-election, right? She's not going to run against Joe Biden. And if Joe Biden doesn't seek re-election, let's be real, it's because of his age. Will the Democratic Party look to someone who herself would be 77 years old?
SCHOEN: Well, I think, given the fact that the Biden administration is increasingly unpopular, Vice President Kamala Harris is even more unpopular than the sitting president. And I think we're looking at a potential blowout for the Democrats, or against the Democrats in the midterm elections. I think the party will look for somebody new and different. And as I look at the Democrats front end and back end, the only credible candidate they have, notwithstanding her age is former secretary of state and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
SMERCONISH: If it's not Biden and Kamala Harris wants it and I presume that she does, I imagine there would be a lot of pressure brought to bear on other potential Democratic candidates on the grounds that they stand the risk of denying America's first female. And female of color who could be president. But maybe Hillary Clinton gets a pass from that. In other words, I think it's hard for Elizabeth Warren. I think it's hard for Amy Klobuchar to step out in opposition to Kamala Harris if that's the way it unfolds. But maybe not for Hillary.
SCHOEN: Well, I would agree with that. I think Secretary Clinton has a strong record as a champion of women's rights. Certainly, a champion of the interest of people of color. And I think Secretary Clinton, who has the ability to raise literally a billion dollars and be a credible candidate I think and make the allegation. Which I think is increasingly believable that the 2016 election for a variety of reasons was effectively stolen from her. Whether it be by Jim Comey's late announcement about the e-mails or other factors. I think she has a credible argument. This was a relaunch. And by all accounts, I think it achieved what she was seeking to do.
SMERCONISH: The final subject, earlier this week on Fox, it was all Durham, Durham, Durham. And then, I noted when she laid down this marker in that speech on Thursday, all of a sudden, kaput with all the conversations about Durham. You know the Clintons, even though you're not speaking for them and the opinions you've offered have nothing to do with her plans as she has articulated them.
But here's the question. When she hears about Durham, does she say to herself, oh my God, who needs this. This is like the new Benghazi. I'll write another bestselling novel and stick around in Chappaqua with Bill or does it invigorate her?
SCHOEN: Michael, it invigorates her. Every waking moment that she thinks about politics, which is a lot of the time, she feels that she should be president, that she'd do a better job than anyone who has been in the office since and that she was a victim of unfairness in 2016.
Bill Clinton feels the same way, he said there's no more qualified candidate for president, including himself than Hillary. I think they are plotting to return to the Oval Office. And I believe that she has the best possible campaign strategist and the former president, and she is time tested -- your word was defiant -- she is motivated and mobilized for another chance.
SMERCONISH: I am smiling just imagining what that contest could look like, holy smokes. So far, so far, you seem prescient.
Douglas Schoen, thank you so much.
SCHOEN: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying in my social media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, all of the above. What do we have?
I love you Michael, but stop trying to make this sound plausible. It ain't gonna happen.
Really, FlynnBW? What is more plausible? What is more plausible? Mark Halpern said on my radio show this week, the most plausible scenario as of today for 2024 is a rematch of 2016. Not a prediction, but just saying as of today, is there anything more plausible than Hillary versus the Donald? I can't think of something more plausible.
One more from social media if we have time.
As a Democrat, I feel Hillary Rodham Clinton's has come and gone. She would have been a great president. I think it's time to bring in some new younger leaders, Who? That's the issue.
Joe D. Get Vaccinated, agree with that part. Yes, but you think about the process. I mean, we always say, oh well, who else is there?
[09:25:00] But when you get down to the brass tacks of the way we run nomination fights in this country, if she wants it, that nomination, I think could not be denied her. And as of today, as of today, with regard to Trump, you have to say the same thing. Say what you will about him. Say what you will about her. Could anyone deny them if they decided this is what they wanted to do? My answer, no.
Up ahead. People find computer generated deepfake faces more trustworthy than the real thing. That is the finding of an astonishing new study that even surprised the scientist who did it.
And a San Francisco woman was charged with a crime based on a DNA sample law enforcement got years earlier when she was sexually assaulted. The city's DA, Chesa Boudin, dropped the charges and he's here to explain.
Remember, I want to know what you think. Go to smerconish.com this hour and vote on this week's survey question. Should the DNA of a woman's rape kit later be used to identify her as a suspect in another crime?
SMERCONISH: Should DNA from a rape survivor be used to identify that same person for another crime at a later date? That's what they're weighing right now in San Francisco. The police department arrested a woman on a recent felony property crime charge, allegedly based on DNA samples that she gave in 2016, after being sexually assaulted to help identify her attacker. The databases contain thousands of people like her and their consent forms make no mention of the possibility of the DNA being used in this manner.
Now, the San Francisco Police Department is reviewing its DNA collection practices and policies. Chief William Scott said in a statement, "If it's true that DNA collected from a rape or sexual assault victim has been used by the SFPD to identify and apprehend that person as a suspect in another crime, I'm committed to ending the practice. We must never create disincentives for crime victims to cooperate with police."
This week, San Francisco's district attorney said the charges against the woman were being dropped. Joining me now is San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin. Thanks so much being here and getting up early for us. What went on in this case?
CHESA BOUDIN, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, we raised awareness about this issue on Monday of this past week. After it came to my attention I was outraged. I mean, the critical issue here is victim safety and eliminating barriers to survivors of sexual assault coming forward and cooperating. We know that rape and sexual assault are among the most serious and least reported crimes that my office deals with.
Our priority is public safety and supporting victims and holding those who harm them accountable. And to do that effectively, we need survivors to trust us. We need them to trust police.
And when we learned that the San Francisco Police Department had used a victim's DNA, without their consent, in ways that violate the California constitution's Victims' Bill of Rights known as Marsy's Law, likely violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States' constitution.
We were outraged because of the disincentive that this could create for future survivors of serious crime to come forward and cooperate. We need them to trust law enforcement. We need them to know that we have their back, that we will protect them, that we will believe them, that we will stand with them.
And here sadly, the San Francisco Police Department crime lab, as we believe many other labs around the country are doing, treated this survivor who had the courage to come forward to submit her body to poking and prodding in examination, after the most horrific, humiliating, degrading violation any of us can imagine, they then treated her like as a piece of evidence rather than a human being. It is unacceptable and it will not be allowed to continue on my watch, that's why we partnered --
SMERCONISH: Do you know -- do you know -- has anyone been convicted using DNA obtained in this fashion in San Francisco?
BOUDIN: The short answer is likely, yes, but we don't know. Because most of the police reports from the crime lab that we get are extremely opaque. We only discovered this particular issue, as I said, late last week, due to the crime lab report that made an opaque reference to a 2016 sample. We happened to look up that 2016 incident report number and see that it was a sexual assault case.
We don't know how many thousands of other cases have involved tests or, potentially, as you say, charges and convictions, against a survivor of a sexual assault. I'm very concerned about --
SMERCONISH: Mr. D.A., does it matter -- does it matter to you what the crime is? In other words, this is like a law school hypothetical, sadly. I agree with you that in the case of a woman who reports a rape and then later is suspected in a property crime, you don't use the DNA that was collected.
But what if she was connected to a murder? Or -- here's another one. What if it's not her? What if it's her brother? What if all of the sudden, you have DNA and you connect it to a family member of hers and it's a very serious personal crime, what then?
BOUDIN: Well, law school hypotheticals are fun. Unfortunately, this is a very real situation. It's not hypothetical. We know that other crime labs around the state and country are storing the DNA of survivors of sexual assault without their permission. And the reason why -- look, thankfully, this wasn't a more serious crime. [09:35:01]
But the reason we need clear laws, the reason we're working with state senator Scott Wiener and with supervisor Hillary Ronen to craft legislation to make crystal clear that these practices are unacceptable and illegal and prohibited is because we cannot be in a situation, as you posit, where there's a murder case that is tainted by unlawful law enforcement searches.
Let's be really clear, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution and Marsy's Law, California's Victims' Bill of Rights, don't distinguish between property crimes and murders. They create guarantees and protections that apply to all survivors of crime. And they prohibit using evidence or DNA that's beyond the scope of consent, that's without their permission, that's in ways that violates their trust. And there's good reason for that legal prohibition. In this case --
SMERCONISH: Quick final question. I think -- I think you're telling me that you believe San Francisco is not an outlier. But you believe this is taking place in other police departments across the country. Did I hear you correctly?
BOUDIN: That's right. We know that it has happened in Bristol, Massachusetts. There's an online legislative report about the problems in their D.A.'s office with this kind of a database. And I have spoken to my counterpart district attorneys around the state and around the country. They're all outraged by this practice in San Francisco. And many of them have confirmed that their local labs maintained a similar database that unlawfully keeps for years on end -- indefinitely the DNA of survivors of sexual assault who never consented to have their DNA profile stored indefinitely --
SMERCONISH: Fascinating issue --
BOUDIN: -- database.
SMERCONISH: Fascinating issue. Chesa Boudin, thank you for being here. We appreciate it. We'll follow it.
BOUDIN: Thank you. Take care.
SMERCONISH: Now you know why I'm asking in this week's survey question the following, go to Smerconish.com and cast your ballot on this, should the DNA of a woman's rape kit later be used to identify her as a suspect in another crime?
His answer clearly is no. His answer is, hell no. If that person -- again, the rape victim -- just got to make this clear. I'm trying to word it very carefully. If her DNA later links her to a property crime, I think we all agree you're not going to do that. What if it's serious? I mean, let your -- let your mind create the hypothetical. What if it's -- not that a property crime isn't serious, but what if it's murder and you've got DNA that links her? Then it gets dicey. Go vote at my Web site.
Still to come, seeing is disbelieving. The rise of deep fake technology now so sophisticated they're more convincing than the real deal. We'll talk about the political implications of letting this astonishing technology go unchecked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After a long day it's just -- cereal hits the spot.
PARIS HILTON, ACTRESS: It really does. That's hot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's not hot. It's a cold cereal. Like oatmeal this is just -- you add water in it.
HILTON: If this was hot then it'd be scary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After a long day it's just --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This is wild. That is a deep fake Tom Cruise with a real Paris Hilton from TikTok. And let's be clear that's not a look-alike Tom Cruise. He's a deep fake. Meaning a video someone else digitally altered to make it look like him. Kind of funny but also scary, right, about how believable it is. And how many more like them are proliferating every day?
These questions are provoked by a new study which suggests that today's technology has gotten so good that it's capable of creating things indistinguishable from reality, even more believable. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. And it suggests that people are easily fooled by faces that are machine generated even finding them more trustworthy than actual human faces.
This can lead to as Scientific American Magazine recently noted, "Potential weaponization in disinformation campaigns for political or other gain, the creation of false porn for blackmail, and any number of intricate manipulations for novel forms of abuse and fraud."
What's more these digital manipulations can result in what has been called a liar's dividend. Meaning in a world where anything can be fake, you can plausibly deny something is manufactured even if it was legitimately captured on video. You now, real fake news.
Here's a visual example of how the technology works using President Trump's face to generate a computer simulation. And here's a deep fake made by the guys from "South Park" after the 2020 election purportedly showing the voted-out president reading an unhappy Christmas children's book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People started -- they started cheating. The numbers changed -- 300,000 in just Pennsylvania and that's dominion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Here to discuss is Sam Gregory, program director for WITNESS which helps people use video and technology to protect human rights. Sam, is there always a way that someone with expertise and tools and technology can figure out if it's real or it's fake?
SAM GREGORY, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, WITNESS: I'd say there's usually a way right now that experts can look at a deep fake and they can spot some of the signs that it's been generated. Or they can look and try to understand while this could not be plausible physically or in terms of the context it was in.
But the problem is it's getting harder. And it's also a lot harder when we encounter the types of videos that are shared in social media like the low resolution, they're compressed. And that makes it harder. So the progress is in the wrong direction.
SMERCONISH: So putting this in a political context or human rights context which worries you more that someone makes a deep fake, a real deep fake video, or now that now there's such mistrust generated that people look at real things, and they say, well, I can't tell if that's real or not?
GREGORY: At the moment, I've spent the last four years talking to activists and journalists around the world. The biggest worry tends to be it's just got so much easier to claim something's false, right? And it just takes, you know, one sentence to say, "Hey, there are deep fakes out there, what you call the liar's dividend. You can't believe any piece of video."
So when we talk to activists and journalists they say, "Look, you know, I've uncovered corruption or I find evidence of human rights abuse." And, you know, the response that we're starting to hear is, "Well that could be a deep fake, right?" We can't believe things that we find. And that puts the pressure on the people who have the least capacity to do that, because, you know, most journalists -- most people around the world and 99.9 percent of your viewers wouldn't know how to distinguish a deep fake and have no way to counter that claim. So we already have that on the recent cases.
SMERCONISH: I couldn't -- yes, I couldn't tell the Tom Cruise that we showed. I mean, I had no idea that was a fake Tom Cruise.
Another question. Which is more advanced, if that's the right word, the video manipulation or the audio manipulation? Because I thought that that Trump looked rather convincing but didn't sound as convincing.
GREGORY: Yes, so audio is being getting better fast. Video is being getting better fast. I think one thing your viewers should know is the Tom Cruise, that took real work. That is like talented people using visual effects. There are not many people who can do that, right? So we're not surrounded by, you know, every celebrity, every person in that type of deep fake.
I think one of the things that's got really easy to do well are the fake photos, right? And that's where we're really starting to see the impact globally is fake photos that make it very easy to create a fictional person. Or do something -- create an image of something that never existed.
So audio is getting better. Video is getting better. Fake photos really very good at this point.
SMERCONISH: Sam, this is unfair to you because I only have a minute left. But what do we do about it?
GREGORY: So, we can't put the blame on people that they don't spot them. You know, I spend my life talking to people and trying to get them to distinguish these photos and they can't tell what's true and false. Exactly what the paper found.
So we have to bring people back to media literacy basics. You know, make sure you try to understand who shared this to you, where it came from, try and trace the source. And we have to invest in the pipeline of how we make these things, right?
It's far easier to spot a deep fake if someone has left the traces in it because the technique, they use require them to leave a trace that's detectable later on. So we've got to go back down the pipeline and not place the pressure on us as people encountering this in Instagram or Facebook or TikTok to try and work it out. If we can't pause (ph) the pixels we'll fail.
SMERCONISH: I really appreciate you flag in this and putting it on our radar screen. It's a real serious subject that deserves further attention. Thank you, Sam.
GREGORY: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From the world of Twitter. What do we have?
"People have always mistaken fiction and movies for real life. I wouldn't worry too much about" -- really? "All it does is divide liars" -- I'm worried. Having just seen what I have seen. The Tom Cruise, could you tell that that was a fake Tom Cruise, not a look- alike? That's not what we're talking about. Look at that. That's not Tom Cruise, are you blanking me?
Then again, they had to tell me that it was Paris Hilton who was with him. So what do I know? Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we will give you the result of the survey question. Please go vote at Smerconish.com. We had the district attorney of San Francisco Chesa Boudin here to talk about this. Well, I was going to say unique case, maybe it's not so unique.
Should the DNA of a woman's rape kit later be used to identify her as a suspect in another -- meaning a different crime?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to this week's survey question at Smerconish.com, very unique. Should the DNA of a woman's rape kit later be used to identify her as a suspect in another crime?
Survey says -- well, interesting. It's a 60/40 essentially. Fifty- eight percent say it should. Wow. I'm really surprised by that. I thought it would have been the reverse. And it's nearly 15,000 people. Now they tell me more who have voted on that.
I'll tell you something else. I thought that the D.A., Chesa Boudin, made some news here this hour when I asked him -- well, two things. One, that he doesn't believe it's a practice unique to San Francisco. And second, when I said, "Do you think anybody has been prosecuted for this?" And I have to go back and read the transcript. But I said he said, likely, yes.
Here's some of the social media reaction to our conversation. DNA should be taken from every baby born. Crime would drop precipitously in one generation.
Well, Eric, crime may drop in one generation, but what other sacrifice of your privacy would then follow from that? I mean, do the cost/benefit analysis. Do you think crime dropping, which I'll be it would, would be worth what you are giving up? I'm not so sure.
What else do we have? Replying to -- "past crime, yes.
Future crime? Absolutely no," says Charles Hoffmann.
Well, how come? Why does -- why does it matter whether you're talking about the past or in the future? I don't see that distinguishing.
Here's what I think. I think that maybe you treat a sexual assault different than any other crime. Here's a question that I continue to have about San Francisco. Do they have one database or two? Because there ought to be a DNA database for the sexual assault related crimes and then a separate one for everything else. If they don't have that, big mistake.
One more reaction. What do we have? Quickie.
DNA sample from a rape victim is for one purpose. As a soldier, I gave DNA for one purpose. These purposes shouldn't be used against us.
Well, one of the problems in this case is that the consent form made no mention, as I understand it, of this possibility. At a minimum that's got to change.
What a fascinating issue. Keep voting on it. I'll see you next week.