California Bans the Use of Deepfakes in Politics and Pornography

The new laws are meant to counter fake and harmful videos of politicians and celebrities.
Fabienne Lang

Some deepfakes offer entertainment and are generally fun. However, when they are used in a way to abuse or mislead others, it's another story. To curb the amount of these nefarious deepfake videos, the state of California has created two new laws. 

One of the two new bills — called AB 730 — was signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and now makes it illegal for someone to create deepfake videos of politicians that aim to tamper with voters' choices, and create fake news within 60 days of an election. 

Furthermore, Gov. Newsome also signed AB 602, which allows Californians the right to sue anyone whose face has been placed on top of pornographic material without their consent.


What are deepfakes?

In essence, a deepfake is a tampered video in which a person appears to say and do things they did not, in fact, do or say. Some of these deepfake videos are so well done, thanks to new technology, that it is hard to tell whether they're real or not. 

Unfortunately, sometimes, these videos are purposefully created to attack someone, intimidate them, or sway people's opinions about them. For instance, actress Scarlett Johansson's face was placed atop a misleading, pornographic video, making it appear as though she was performing the act. This can be used to hurt celebrities as well as regular people.

Deepfakes have also been used to try and sway political opinion.

Earlier this year, a deepfake emerged of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which she appeared to be drunkenly slurring her words during a speech. This video went viral on social media. 

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California Assemblymember, Marc Berman, the brains behind bills AB 730 and AB 602, stated that these types of deepfakes could mislead voters and change an election's outcome. 

It's in part due to these worries that the new laws have been passed quite understandably. 

Berman said, "Voters have a right to know when video, audio, and images that they are being shown, to try to influence their vote in an upcoming election, have been manipulated and do not represent reality."

"In the context of elections, the ability to attribute speech or conduct to a candidate that is false – that never happened – makes deepfake technology a powerful and dangerous new tool in the arsenal of those who want to wage misinformation campaigns to confuse voters," Berman declared.

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