Virginia has become the first US state to impose criminal penalties on the distribution of non-consensual deepfake images and video. New laws in Virginia take effect on July 1. The state's General Assembly passed the bill in early March, and it was
signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam later that month.
The new law amends existing law that defines distribution of nudes or sexual imagery without the subject's consent as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The new bill updated the law by adding a category
of falsely created videographic or still image to the text:
Any person who, with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate, maliciously disseminates or sells any videographic or still image created by any means
whatsoever that depicts another person who is totally nude, or in a state of undress so as to expose the genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast, where such person knows or has reason to know that he is not licensed or authorized to disseminate
or sell such videographic or still image is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For purposes of this subsection, another person includes a person whose image was used in creating, adapting, or modifying a videographic or still image with the intent to
depict an actual person and who is recognizable as an actual person by the person's face, likeness, or other distinguishing characteristic.
A small handful other states are working to develop legislation making the use of deepfakes
for election manipulation or sexual exploitation unlawful.
But of course the question is now how quickly the law will be used to outlaw political comment, criticism, jokes and internet memes.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that institutes penalties for nonconsensual, sexually explicit digital videos, tagged deep fakes.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 602, targets companies and individuals who create and distribute
the videos in California without the consent of the individual being depicted.
The issue is particularly pertinent in California as Hollywood and US TV stars are very much those targeted by the deep fakers.
The Screen Actors Guild-American
Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is a union representing many of the film and TV stars.
SAG-AFTRA has commended California Newsom for signing the legislation into law. The group said that the legislation was meaningful
recourse for the victims, many of whom are members of SAG-AFTRA. The group's president Gabrielle Carteris said:
We are absolutely thrilled that Gov. Newsom stood by the victims, most of whom are women, of nonconsensual
pornography by signing AB 602 into law. I want to thank the governor; the bill's authors, Assembly member Marc Berman and Sen. Connie Leyva; and all the California lawmakers who unanimously voted for this legislation. AB 602 is a victory for all
Californians. Deepfake technology can be weaponized against any person. Every person deserves the basic human right to live free from image-based sexual abuse.
Update: A second deep fake bill protects
politicians from having words put in their mouths
Governor Gavin Newsom in fact signed two bills into law that limit what people can do with deep fakes. The second law makes it illegal to make and distribute a malicious deep fake of a politician within two months of an
Presumably the lawmakers are worrying that politicians can be depicted as saying thing that they did not in fact say.
However this bill seems a little ahead of its time as deep fakes are not really being used for this reason so
far. A new report by DeepTrace, a company that builds tools to spot synthetic media. The company says that it has identified 14,678 deepfakes on the internet but most of them weren't created to mess with elections. In fact 96% of the deepfakes were still
plain old fake porn.