Georgia might make it a felony to use deepfakes in elections

Legislators consider ban on recordings that mimic candidates
The Senate Judiciary Committee listens to Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, as he speaks Monday at the Georgia Capitol about Senate Bill 392, which would make it a crime to use deepfakes in campaign ads. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The Senate Judiciary Committee listens to Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, as he speaks Monday at the Georgia Capitol about Senate Bill 392, which would make it a crime to use deepfakes in campaign ads. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Georgia lawmakers are trying to find ways to criminalize videos that use technology to impersonate candidates, warning that this year’s presidential election could include misleading ads featuring Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Bills designed to crack down on the videos, called deepfakes, are being considered by both the state Senate and House but haven’t yet advanced amid concerns about enforcement and the creation of a new crime in Georgia law.

Deepfakes have already been used in campaigns in other states, including in this year’s presidential primary.

In New Hampshire, a robocall that mimicked Biden’s voice discouraged people from voting in this month’s primary, saying they should “save your vote for the November election.”

“This is real-time. This is going to happen in this election cycle as we have never seen it before,” said state Sen. John Albers, a Republican from Roswell and sponsor of Senate Bill 392. “If something’s not illegal, you better believe people on that moral and ethical edge are going to use that to their perverted advantage.”

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Under the Georgia legislation, creating a deepfake video, image or sound recording with the intent of influencing the result of an election would be a felony punishable by one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000.

“Applying felony charges to the publication of online content sets an unnerving and excessive precedent,” Sarah Hunt-Blackwell of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing Monday.

“The manufacturing of disinformation using AI is a serious issue that presents novel challenges,” she said. “As we work through solutions, I ask this body to keep constitutional protections top of mind.”

Both Republican and Democratic senators suggested changes to the bill before scheduling a vote. Their ideas included an option for misdemeanor-level penalties and clarification on where offenses could be prosecuted for ads broadcast statewide.

A similar measure to criminalize deepfake election interference, House Bill 986, is also pending in the state House.