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Bipartisan plan to regulate non-consensual ‘deep fakes’ goes before House committee

LANSING — Michigan lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a bipartisan plan to criminalize the dissemination of pornographic deep fake media, also known as intimate deep fakes.

Deep fakes are a type of media that use AI to impose a person’s face over another’s body, often created with the intent to pass that content off as genuine.

The legislation would establish criminal and civil penalties for distributing such media non-consensually. Fines could reach up to $100,000, with imprisonment up to one year for most offenses and up to three years for those profiting from deep fakes and other aggravating factors.

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“As artificial intelligence outpaces our legal framework, this initiative underscores our state’s commitment to protecting citizens from the repercussions of non consensual deepfake creation and distribution,” said Rep. Matthew Bierlein, R-Vassar.

Advocates say it’s important for lawmakers to get in front of the issue as rapid advancements in AI technology continue.

“This is a problem that’s here and now,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “It’s a problem that’s going to get worse as time goes forward and technology evolves.”

New York and Texas have passed similar laws in recent years, along with half a dozen other states.

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The proposals come after Michigan became one of the first states to regulate AI use in political advertising last year.

The legislation in its current form would only criminalize the spreading of non-consensual intimate deep fakes, though the bill sponsors said substitutions would be considered to restrict the creation of such images.

Weissman says that tech companies likely weren’t up for the challenge presented by widely accessible deepfake technology.

“We can ask platforms and others to prevent dissemination — they should do and should be legally required to do everything they possibly can,” he said. “But it’s for sure that that’s not going to be enough. So we do need to have legal prohibitions both in the civil and criminal law.”

The plan has support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The bill was not advanced out of the House Criminal Justice committee but could be moved forward in the coming weeks.

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