US lawmakers propose DEFIANCE Act to tackle troublesome deep fakes

February 2, 2024

deep fake AI

US lawmakers proposed a new bill titled the Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits (DEFIANCE).

DEFIANCE targets the rising issue of AI-generated explicit images, such as the recent controversial AI-created explicit depictions of Taylor Swift. 

Taylor Swift was targeted with a series of deep fake AI-generated images that triggered reactions from the White House, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and millions worldwide. 

In response to the spread of the Swift deepfakes, her fans, known as “Swifties,” started a social media campaign using the phrase “Taylor Swift AI” to overshadow the explicit content with performance clips. They also launched a digital manhunt for the perpetrator

Meanwhile, political deep fakes have become increasingly realistic and alarming, and deep fake audio is becoming much tougher to detect.

This bipartisan legislation aims to empower individuals by allowing them to sue for damages if they are depicted in “digital forgeries” without consent. 

Introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and supported by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Josh Hawley (R-MO), the bill extends the legal framework established by the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, which similarly addressed non-faked explicit images.

The DEFIANCE Act responds to what lawmakers see as an “exponentially” increasing problem of digitally manipulated explicit AI images.

 Senator Durbin remarked, “This month, fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift that were generated by artificial intelligence swept across social media platforms. Although the imagery may be fake, the harm to the victims from the distribution of sexually explicit ‘deep fakes’ is very real.” 

With the advent of accessible generative AI tools, deep fakes have become extremely simple to create, even using tools developed by the likes of Microsoft and OpenAI, with grave consequences of misinformation, harassment, and blackmail. 

The DEFIANCE Act not only addresses AI-generated images but also includes any sexually explicit image created or modified by technological means to appear indistinguishable from an authentic depiction of the individual. 

This broad definition encompasses older tools like Photoshop, provided the results are realistic enough.

Senator Josh Hawley emphasized the importance of this legislation, stating, “Nobody – neither celebrities nor ordinary Americans – should ever have to find themselves featured in AI pornography. Innocent people have a right to defend their reputations and hold perpetrators accountable in court. This bill will make that a reality.” 

The bill also faces potential challenges and questions regarding its impact on artistic expression and political parody, but you’d think the line between parody and harm is fairly easy to draw when it comes to sexually explicit images, at least. 

All in all, the DEFIANCE Act feels like a step in addressing the legal gaps surrounding nonconsensual, AI-generated explicit imagery, but this is a moving target.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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