States Regulating Deepfakes While Federal Government Remains Deadlocked

Some states are making laws regarding deepfakes even as the federal government remains deadlocked.

Nine states have enacted laws regulating deepfakes — audio and visual forgeries created with artificial intelligence (AI) — and at least four are considering bills that would do so, Bloomberg reported Tuesday (June 20).

Some states’ efforts preceded the recent surge of interest and advancements in AI, but the pace of lawmaking is increasing as the latest technology makes it easier for nontechnical people to create digital content, according to the report.

The first state legislation addressing deepfakes — in California, Texas and Virginia — dates back to 2019, the report said. More recently, Minnesota enacted such a law in February and Illinois passed a law that is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

The states’ laws vary in scope and remedies. For example, laws may impose criminal penalties and/or civil penalties and may provide different definitions of a deepfake, per the report.

Lawmakers must also balance the potential harm that may be caused by deepfakes with the right to use the technology for parodies and other harmless applications.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said May 25 that deepfakes are his biggest AI-related worry because the material can be created for illicit purposes.

Speaking in Washington on how to regulate AI, Smith called for measures to “protect against the alteration of legitimate content with an intent to deceive or defraud people through the use of AI” as well as for licensing of the most key forms of AI to protect physical, cyber and national security.

“We’re going to have to address in particular what we worry about most: foreign cyber influence operations, the kinds of activities that are already taking place by the Russian government, the Chinese, the Iranians,” Smith said.

China has heightened its scrutiny of deepfake technology amid a rise in AI-driven fraud that included a case in which a man was scammed into giving money to a fraudster posing as a friend during a video call with the help of AI-powered face-swapping technology.

At the same time, venture capital (VC) funds reportedly invested $187.7 million into the deepfake industry in 2022.