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Jordan Peele uses AI, President Obama in fake news PSA

Deepfakers beware: Do it in California or Texas and you'll be in deep trouble

California has decided to throw a flag on people who post deepfake videos of candidates running for public office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that prohibits distribution of these artificially created or manipulated videos within 60 days of an election unless the video carries a statement disclosing it has been altered. Texas enacted a similar law late last month.

That the nation's most populous state, where lawmaking power is entirely in Democrats' hands, would mirror a new policy in the third-largest state, formulated entirely by Republicans, is a clear indictor that the new world of deepfakes is causing big-time bipartisan worry among politicians. But some experts question whether the laws will survive legal challenges.


Deepfake is a relatively new weapon in the increasingly nasty arsenal of attacks used on candidates and politicians.

The concept received broad attention after a video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been slowed down in a way that made it appear she was slurring her speech. President Trump then tweeted a link to the video along with this executive summary: "PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE."

Experts said this was not technically an example of deepfake, which uses artificial intelligence to synthesize human images and also involves superimposing existing images onto source images or videos.

Regardless, concern has been growing about the use of deepfakes by foreign adversaries or home-grown political operatives as a way to manipulate campaigns.

A study, released this week by Deeptrace, said the firm found nearly 15,000 deepfake videos on the internet, nearly twice the number the company identified in December 2018. Most of those were pornography.

A second bill signed by Newsom last week gives California residents the right to sue people who distribute sexually explicit videos using their image without their consent.

"Voters have a right to know when video, audio, and images that they are being shown to try to influence their vote in an upcoming election have been manipulated and do not represent reality," said the author of California's deepfake bill, Democratic state Rep. Marc Berman. "In the context of elections, the ability to attribute speech or conduct to a candidate that is false — that never happened — makes deepfake technology a powerful and dangerous new tool in the arsenal of those who want to wage misinformation campaigns to confuse voters."

Legal scholars, however, question whether the California and Texas laws violate free speech protections.

"I believe there are serious constitutional questions with the new law," wrote Rick Hasen, professor at the University of California, Irvine law school.

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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