Report: VCs Pump $187 Million Into Deepfake Firms


Investors are reportedly pumping some real money into the deepfake industry.

Venture capital (VC) funds invested $187.7 million into the sector in 2022 — up from $1 million in 2017 — Bloomberg News reported Wednesday (May 17), citing PitchBook data, which also shows that VCs have given synthetic media companies $50 so far this year.

According to the report, the largest beneficiary of this funding was Runway, a New York company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate images and video, splice together content and edit according to prompts.

There’s also London’s Synthesia, which makes a tool that creates realistic virtual personas from recorded video and audio, and which received $50 million in VC investment, and Deep Voodoo, a startup founded by South Park’s creators that raised $20 million last year.

The news comes amid warnings that AI-generated images, video and audio can be used in nefarious ways, like the scenario Sen. Richard Blumenthal laid out in a hearing on the technology Tuesday (May 16).

The Connecticut Democrat opened the session by playing a fake recording of his own voice, made using actual audio from his speeches and comments written by ChatGPT.

While those comments reflected his views accurately, Blumenthal argued AI just as easily could have produced “an endorsement of Ukraine’s surrendering or Vladimir Putin’s leadership” something he called “really frightening.”

“Artificial intelligence urgently needs rules and safeguards to address its immense promise and pitfalls,” Blumenthal added.

As noted here last week, American companies are leading the charge to develop AI, though policymakers risk falling behind.

“The dangers inherent to the abuses of AI technology, including inequitable discrimination and algorithm bias, disinformation and fraud, among others, make it imperative that governments move to regulate the technology appropriately, and fast,” PYMNTS wrote.

China last week moved on from the consultation period of its second round of generative AI regulation, which builds on rules agreed to in 2022 meant to govern deepfakes.

While most of the breakthroughs in generative AI technology have happened within the U.S., China leads America in consumer adoption of the technology, and market observers think leaders in Beijing are hoping faster-paced AI regulation efforts will fuel even further uptake.

For example, Microsoft’s China-focused AI chatbot, Xiaoice, has a user base that is nearly double the size of the U.S. population.