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Pennsylvania bill targets artificial intelligence election deep fakes

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(The Center Square) – Artificially generated impersonations of political candidates may soon violate state law.

Bills pending in both chambers of the Legislature would leave campaigns liable in civil court for unauthorized media content that negatively influences an election.

“While this technology has the potential to make content creation more efficient, it also has the power to spread disinformation at an unprecedented rate through deceptively realistic content,” said Sen. Tracy Pennycuick, R-Red Hill. “It’s critical that we take steps to prevent such blatant election interference and allow voters to make informed decisions when casting ballots.”

Creators that disseminate deep fakes within 90 days of an election can be fined as much as $250,000 if caught impersonating presidential or congressional candidates. The penalties drop to $50,000 and $15,000 for state and local candidates, respectively.

Pennycuick sponsored the legislation on May 23 with fellow Republican Sen. Chris Gebhard and Democratic Sens. Jimmy Dillon and John Kane.

“This is about truth in our elections,” Kane said. “We are introducing this legislation to safeguard the accuracy of information and protect our voters from the influence of fabricated content. Every vote should be based on truth, not deepfakes and AI-generated deception.”

The issue has drawn attention across the country as federal regulators weigh new limits for generative AI technology.

For now, 14 states have enacted resolutions and pursued new laws targeting deep fakes. One such state, New Hampshire, made headlines before its Jan. 23 primary election after a robocall featuring the voice of President Joe Biden told residents to stay home and save their votes for the November general election.

Rep. Tarik Kahn, D-Philadelphia, sponsored similar legislation in the House and said the escalation of negative ads from actual photos, videos and sound clips to deep fakes serve no purpose beyond “deception.”

“We can’t wait. We’re acting,” he said. “We are standing with our Senate colleagues and reaching across the aisle to work together. This is how we safeguard our democracy and restore people’s trust.”

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