Anticipating and addressing the ethical implications of deepfakes in the context of elections

Nicholas Diakopoulos*, Deborah Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


New media synthesis technologies are rapidly advancing and becoming more accessible, allowing users to make video and audio clips (i.e. deepfakes) of individuals doing and saying things they never did or said. Deepfakes have significant implications for the integrity of many social domains including that of elections. Focusing on the 2020 US presidential election and using an anticipatory approach, this article examines the ethical issues raised by deepfakes and discusses strategies for addressing these issues. Eight hypothetical scenarios are developed and used as the basis for this analysis, which identifies harms to voters who view deepfakes, candidates and campaigns that are the subjects of deepfakes, and threats to electoral integrity. Four potential forms of intervention are discussed with respect to multi-stakeholder responsibility for addressing harms, including education and media literacy, subject defense, verification, and publicity moderation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2072-2098
Number of pages27
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Anticipatory ethics
  • deepfakes
  • electoral integrity
  • synthetic media
  • technology ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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