Federal and state lawmakers across the nation are considering legislation to address what they see as the rising dangers of “deepfakes.” Deepfakes are false yet highly realistic artificial intelligence (AI)-created video, audio and text. A sophisticated deepfake video can show people saying things they never said and doing things they never did.
About a dozen bills have been introduced in the US Congress and state legislatures in the past year that address deepfakes in one form or another. Two bills have already become criminal law— one in Virginia, criminalizing nonconsensual deepfake pornography, and one in Texas, criminalizing deepfakes that interfere with elections. Two other bills passed by the California legislature in September 2019 await the Governor’s signature. They would allow victims of nonconsensual deepfake pornography to sue for damages and give candidates for public office the ability to sue individuals or organizations that create or share election-related deepfakes without warning labels near Election Day.
The proposed and enacted laws share several common characteristics.
- Reports. Five bills pending before the US Congress would require federal agencies to brief lawmakers or write reports on the current state of deepfake technology, deepfake countermeasures, and any changes needed to laws and regulations to respond to the threats posed by such manipulated media (see H.R. 2500, H.R. 3600/S. 2065; H.R. 3494; S. 1348.; see also H.R. 3230 (requiring annual reports in addition to imposing new criminal penalties on certain deepfakes)).
- Nonconsensual Deepfake Pornography. One state (Virginia, Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-386.2) has adopted a law, and Congress and a few other states are considering others, to ban the use of deepfake technology to produce or distribute nonconsensual pornography (see H.R. 3230; Calif. AB-1280; Calif. AB-602; N.Y. A08155, S0587-B).
- Elections. Texas has adopted a measure outlawing the creation or distribution of deepfake videos of candidates for public office intended to injure the candidate or influence elections (Tex. SB 751). California (Calif. AB-730; Calif. AB-1280) and the US Congress (H.R. 3230) are considering similar bills.