Lawmakers push forward on package addressing deepfakes in political ads ⋆
Members of the House Elections Committee on Monday voted in favor of advancing a slate of bipartisan bills that would regulate the use of deepfakes in political ads.
Last week, House Elections Committee Chair Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) and state Reps. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), Matthew Bierlein (R-Vassar) and Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield) introduced House Bills 5141–5145. The bills would require disclaimers on political ads with audio, images or videos generated using artificial intelligence and create penalties for trying to deceive voters close to an election by using deepfake technology.
State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) on Feb. 27, 2023. | Photo by Anna Gustafson
“Artificial intelligence is here and the technology is available to anyone who can access the internet. As it continues to expand and a presidential election rapidly approaches, we have a duty to protect our elections and our democracy from misinformation and outright forgeries,” Tsernoglou said.
Members of the eight-person committee voted 6-0 to send the bills back to the House floor with a favorable recommendation. Minority Vice Chair Rachelle Smit (R-Martin) and Rep. Jay DeBoyer (R-Clay Twp.) passed on voting on the bills.
Under these regulations qualified political advertisements — which pertain to any candidate, election or ballot question — would have to clearly and conspicuously state that they were wholly or partially generated by the use of AI, with different requirements based on the format of the advertisement. Failure to comply with these rules would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. Fines for a second violation the maximum fine would be raised to $1,500. A third and any subsequent offense would be considered a felony punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, two years in prison or both.
Each advertisement aired or distributed would be considered a separate violation.
There would also be penalties for individuals outside of a campaign committee who circulate materials created using AI that do not include a disclaimer.
The regulations would not apply to radio or television broadcasts that clearly identify the deceptive ad does not represent the speech or conduct of the person shown. News sites, newspapers, magazines or other circulated materials that publish political advertisements would also be exempt if the publication clearly states the ad was created by artificial intelligence.
Radio or TV broadcasting stations who are paid to broadcast political advertisements would also be exempt from the regulations alongside ads that are satire or parody.
Additionally, Tsernoglou’s HB 5144 amends Michigan’s election law to ban the distribution of materially deceptive media — commonly known as deepfakes — with the intention to influence the outcome of an election. However, this ban would not apply if the media includes a disclaimer that the contents have been manipulated to show “speech or conduct that did not occur.”
Ahead of the committee meeting, Voters Not Politicians, a nonpartisan organization advocating for government transparency and election reform, created an ad parodying deep fake political ads. In the video, former Michigan governors are shown making statements that oppose their views while in office and cheering on Ohio State football.
According to a statement from the organization, the ad is intended to demonstrate the danger of the unregulated use of AI in politics by mimicking misleading political ads posted without a disclaimer.
“Our goal in releasing this ad is really to shock lawmakers and the public with the reality of what this technology is already capable of doing,” Kim Murphy-Kovalick,Voters Not Politicians programs director, said in the statement.
During the meeting, Tsernoglou, Bierlein and Arbit showed additional examples of deepfakes including audio of President Joe Biden congratulating Tsernoglou on the introduction of the bills. According to Tsernoglou, the audio took three minutes to generate.
“AI is a rapidly evolving technology. And as we go forward, it’s going to have an even greater impact on our election process and how people consume political information leading up to elections,” Bierlein said.
“In an era where AI is becoming an integral part of our lives, it is crucial to have a legal framework that addresses impacts and potential risks. … The bills are a win for voters and a win for the integrity of our [election] process. If we don’t establish a clear framework now we’re going to be playing catch up later,” Bierlein said.
The bills also garnered support from the Michigan Department of State and Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group centered on issues of health, safety and democracy.
“Michigan law already works very hard to ensure that our voters are informed, whether that’s working through the process of the 100-word summary of a ballot question or putting those ‘paid for by’ disclaimers so we know who’s behind other types of speech,” said Erin Schor, legislative policy director for the Michigan Department of State.
Stevens introduces bipartisan bill to combat ‘deepfakes’
“I think what’s envisioned in these bills, very much fits in with that line of thinking of making sure that voters are making informed decisions,” Schor said.
The bills were opposed by Sheri Ritchie, who did not speak. Ritchie represented Michigan Fair Elections, Pure Integrity Michigan Elections, StandUp Michigan, and The Freedom Alliance Project.
According to a profile from the New York Times, Michigan Fair Elections was established by Republican activists, lawyers and elected officials in Michigan who falsely call the results of the 2020 election fraudulent. The organization shares a blog with Pure Integrity Michigan Elections.
According to its website, Stand Up Michigan is a grassroots movement that aims to “empower We The People to stand up for sacred values, citizen rights and constitutionally-protected freedoms.” GOP former gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano co-founded the group in opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s early health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bills will now move to the House floor for consideration.
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authored by Kyle Davidson
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