Georgia takes on deepfake frontier of election subversion

Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

Fearing that voters could be tricked by misinformation from computer-generated versions of politicians such as Joe Biden or Donald Trump, Georgia lawmakers are rushing to stop malicious spoofs in time for the 2024 presidential election.

Legislation to criminalize deepfakes, such as a robocall that mimicked Biden’s voice to discourage people from voting in the New Hampshire primary last month, targets this latest risk of election subversion.

“When you take someone’s image and likeness, the way they speak and move, having them do something they never did, that’s fraud to me,” said state Rep. Brad Thomas, the Republican sponsor of the bill. “It’s scary. This bill provides the guardrails that people need and election integrity needs.”

While deepfakes haven’t infected campaigns in Georgia yet, legislators have seen their recent spread: the Biden robocall, a faked explicit image of Taylor Swift, and manipulated audio of party leaders in Slovakia conspiring to rig an election. None of them was authentic.

With the support of House Speaker Jon Burns, the Georgia deepfake bill is scheduled for a House vote Thursday.

“These proposed measures will be a great first step toward addressing an extremely important emerging technology and ensure artificial intelligence will be a net positive for Georgia families, businesses and communities,” said Burns, a Republican from Newington.


The danger of deepfakes — enabled by increasingly common artificial intelligence tools — jeopardizes voters’ faith in elections and candidates, using speech as a way to try to tamper with voting behavior and maybe even results, said Thomas of Holly Springs.

“The risk is real. We need to get to a point where citizens are not derailed by what is essentially fancy spam,” said Josh Lawson, director of artificial intelligence and democracy at the Aspen Institute, a think tank focused on U.S. and global issues. “That’s going to require a whole-of-society effort to regulate what we can, penalize bad acts and create a social expectation to verify information and use trustworthy sources.”

Five states have already enacted deepfake election laws, and Thomas said he hopes Georgia’s bill can be a model for the nation.

Under House Bill 986, it would become a felony to broadcast or publish deceptive information within 90 days of an election with the intent to influence a candidate’s chance of being elected, create confusion about election administration or influence the result.


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