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Minnesota legislature seeks to rein in misuse of AI

Updated: May 24, 2023

The Minnesota House of Representatives has passed a bill that outlaws the use of deepfake technology to create pornography or to misinform the public during an election.

The unanimous vote comes after the House and Senate negotiated provisions in their respective bills, and is now on its final votes before heading to the governor’s desk.

“Deepfakes” are images and videos that appear to be real but are in fact simulations created to fool the viewer. Many of them are used to create pornography involving celebrities or other targets of harassment. Others attempt to sway public opinion.

The bill takes aim at a problem ethicists have called alarming, as the images created have the potential to ruin careers, influence election outcomes, and even drive a victim to suicide. A report by Deeptrace reported in 2019 that a database tracked over 15,000 deepfakes and found 96% of them were pornographic. Several apps have come out since then that make the creation of such images even easier.

The bill going through the Minnesota legislature is hoping to reel in the market of deepfake images, at least in pornographic and electoral circles. A victim of a deepfake can sue the maker of the video for up to $100,000 as well as court and attorney fees, and the maker can face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Similarly, those who disseminate a deepfake that could have a significant impact on an election would face a fine of up to $3,000 and a year in jail.

Another key measure of the bill is that it not only targets those who make deepfakes, but those that perpetuate them as well. The bill states that someone who “maintains an Internet website, online service, online application, or mobile application for the purpose of disseminating the deep fake” is liable for the same penalties as the creator of the deepfake.

If signed by the governor, Minnesota would join Texas and California in passing laws limiting the use of deepfakes. There is currently no federal law preventing the use of deepfakes for pornographic purposes or to influence elections.

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