California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday meant to cut down on the use of deepfakes meant to disrupt elections, after a viral video was released earlier this year of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose image was manipulated so she appeared drunk in it.
Assembly Bill 730, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, prohibits individuals or groups from distributing deepfakes within 60 days of an election unless it also carries with it a disclosure statement that it has been manipulated.
“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,” Berman said in a statement. “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 disinformation campaigns to confuse voters.”
The new law allows for candidates who are the targets of such deepfakes to sue producers or distributors of the material. Free speech advocates and news organizations opposed the bill, stating that deepfakes are already covered under current defamation laws.
The manipulated video of Pelosi went viral and was viewed more than three million times online. Berman said although that video was very low quality, he warned of other deepfakes that are “hyper-realistic” that could be more difficult to distinguish from real media.
“AB 730 will help deter nefarious deepfakes by holding accountable the bad actors who intentionally attempt to injure a candidate’s reputation or deceive voters into believing a candidate said or did something they never said or did,” Berman said.
Texas passed a harsher version of the law last month, limiting distribution of deepfake videos to within 30 days of an election and making it a misdemeanor.