Washington State Passes Law Regulating Deepfakes in Political Ads
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has signed a bill defining and regulating how deepfakes and other synthetic media can be used in political ad campaigns. The new law requires clear disclosure whenever manipulated media is used in election campaigns and is designed to combat deception.
The new law defines synthetic media as any visual, audio, or video of someone “that has been intentionally manipulated with the use of generative adversarial network techniques or other digital technology in a manner to create a realistic but false image, audio, or video” and demands that warnings disclosing the deepfake nature of the media be displayed in an image, throughout a video or at the beginning and end of a purely audio ad. It also sets out legal remedies for political candidates should a deepfake of them be used in a political context without their permission. Should it happen within two months of an election, they can ask a judge to stop its distribution and pursue damages against those who first started spreading it.
“This bill is a powerful step towards protecting the integrity of our democratic process,” said bill sponsor State Sen. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle). “With this legislation, we send a clear message that the use of manipulative media will not be tolerated, and that candidates and campaigns can work for the hearts and minds of voters on a level playing field. The new law in Washington follows similar legislation that has been passed in other states, including California and Virginia.
Deepfakes are a renewed source of concern as generative AI has made the technology so much more powerful and accessible. The new law tries to take concerns about free speech limitations into consideration by narrowing its focus solely to political efforts close to Election Day. Lawmakers concluded in their final report before the overwhelming votes in favor of the bill that “synthetic media poses a significant threat to the integrity of the election process and undermines public confidence in elected officials and government institutions.” Nonetheless, Governor Inslee cited concern over a lawsuit if the law misses a beat.
“In the event that this is before our Supreme Court, it is my great hope that they understand this is an entirely new quantum leap in threats to democracy,” said Inslee. “Previously, our Supreme Court has looked at issues of free speech, which I certainly understand, but this is a mortal threat to democracy itself.”