Fake videos, audio, and messages of a candidate are on the rise this election year and Missouri is working to do something about it. The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban the distribution of so-called “deep fakes” within 90 days of an election of any candidate or party running for office.

A Missouri Senate committee is taking a look at the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho. Baker said the bill is a work in progress.

Why within 90 days of an election?

“That’s just kind of the starting point, but definitely something that we can still consider. Should it be longer than that or should it just be wide open? I don’t know, but at least trying to address this to some degree, especially that 90 days in an election is definitely where most of your media buys are as a candidate,” Baker told Missourinet.

He said his bill does not apply if the messages include a disclaimer stating that the message has been manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence.

“Then at least people know that this is not, in fact, the real person,” Baker said. “I think that’s the difference, is the ability to put in someone’s mind that that is that person saying or doing this thing, is just crazy. Trying to find a way where we’re not saying you can’t use this kind of technology, but I think the voters need to know.”

What about people’s First Amendment rights?

“So that’s what I’m trying to do is thread the needle of making sure that we protect our First Amendment rights but also that somebody can’t purposefully deceive voters when it comes to campaigns,” he said.

How would the law be enforced?

“I think the point is putting this into law to where people realize we shouldn’t be doing this and trying to minimize that,” said Baker. “Are there going to be people who break the law anyway? That’s usually the case no matter what law you make. But I think if you can really minimize that by making sure that the people who want to do things right, are probably going to do that and abide by the law. But it’s going to come down to making those complaints and lawsuits.”

A candidate who is harmed by these fake video and audio messages can sue to try and stop the messages.

Under the bill, a person who violates the law the could face a class B misdemeanor the first time; a class A misdemeanor if the person commits the violation with the intent to cause violence or bodily harm, or a class E felony if the person commits the violation within five years of one or more prior convictions.

Who’s responsible for the fake messages?

“Is it the company that publishes that,” he asked. “Or is it the person who paid for it? Or is it the person who generated it? Right now, I tried to narrow that to the person who is paying for it, basically. So, if that’s the candidate, or if it’s a PAC, or whoever is paying for that media to be published, is who primarily needs to be responsible.”

How does the bill fight the social media bots of the world?

“Deep fakes are a growing concern, and we need to clarify their definition to distinguish them from satire and comedy. The bill aims to prevent purposefully destroying someone’s character through deep fakes while allowing for comedy and other forms of expression. It’s important to protect free speech while addressing the potential harm of deep fakes,” Baker said.

Where do you draw the line on what’s comedy and what’s not?

“I think unfortunately, there will be times where, if the bill passes, that it’s going to come down to a judge having to make that decision. But it’s something that I think we have to start trying to address because we’re already behind. That’s how quickly this technology has…I mean, it’s relatively cheap to produce. There are many online software, and platforms, and websites that you can do this so quickly,” he said.

House Bill 2628 also aims to fight false caller ID information.

For more information on the bill, click here.

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