As Deepfake Trouble Spreads, Lawmakers See Reason for Censorship

Proposed regulations on deep fakes could expand the war on “misinformation.”

What’s happening: Deepfake scandals are bubbling up at every level of government.

  • Voters received a fake call from President Biden urging them not to participate in the primary election in New Hampshire. The event sparked warnings of incoming “electoral chaos” if lawmakers ignore the issue.

  • On the federal level, Roger Stone asserts that an investigation into his inciting violence is predicated on a deepfake audio recording.

  • Locally, a Baltimore high school principal is mired in scandal due to a racist audio recording that he, too, claims is a deepfake. Local outlets have been unable to state that he’s wrong.

Why it matters: Critics of deepfake content maintain that regulation is needed to promote an “informed electorate” and help prevent “deceptive political discourse.” But the potential for censorship looms in the wake of past investigations into misinformation campaigns, especially amid an already ideologically motivated Department of Justice.

  • What are they? Deepfakes refer to videos, photos, or audio recordings that seem real but have been manipulated or created with artificial intelligence.

Uncharted legal territory: Currently, no federal regulations exist regarding the use of deepfakes, although some state legislatures have enacted laws to regulate them, including Texas and California. States have proposed measures ranging from requiring disclosures for deepfake content to banning them for temporary periods surrounding elections.

  • Remember: The suppression of the Hunter Biden Laptop story was predicated upon it being “disinformation” that could sway an election, a narrative that has been proven false. Its suppression demonstrates the government’s dangerous capacity for censoring legitimate stories.

  • Illegal memes: Even before the deepfake era, prosecuting political expression for “misinformation” had already begun. Right-wing Twitter troll Doug Mackeywas sent to prison for posting memes that encouraged voting by text for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election.