Feb 15, 2024 - Politics

Washington state may outlaw deepfake porn

Photo collage of images of closely cropped skin, lips hair and digital static.

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Washington state lawmakers are weighing whether to make it illegal to share deepfake pornographic images — a use of artificial intelligence that has victimized people from high school students to Taylor Swift.

Why it matters: Rapidly advancing AI technology can take a single image of someone and create fake videos or photos of them appearing to be nude or having sex. But in Washington and many other states, that's not explicitly banned.

Details: A bill advancing in Washington's Legislature with bipartisan support would create a new criminal offense called "distributing fabricated intimate images."

  • It would become a gross misdemeanor to share digitally altered photos that appear to depict an identifiable person nude, partially nude or engaged in sexual activity without that person's consent.
  • Repeat offenders — as well as those who share fake porn that appears to depict minors — could be charged with felonies.

Plus: The measure would let victims sue those who share deepfake porn.

What they're saying: "There are real harms being done, and our laws don't currently provide a remedy to respond," Russell Brown, executive director of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, told a panel of state legislators last month.

Flashback: When AI-generated nude photos of students circulated at Issaquah High School last year, the incident didn't result in criminal charges, local news stations reported.

Zoom out: Among the top 10 websites that host fake nudes, such images have nearly tripled since 2018, an industry analyst told the Washington Post last year.

  • So far, 10 states — both Republican- and Democratic-controlled — have passed laws banning exploitative deepfake pornography, USA Today reported last month.

Between the lines: Federal law doesn't regulate these images. But late last month, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill designed to hold people responsible for "digital forgery."

What's next: The Washington state proposal passed with no opposition in the state House earlier this month.

  • Its state Senate committee hearing is scheduled for Friday.
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