Deepfake pornography bill essential to Wisconsinites’ privacy online

Wisconsin needs to criminalize deepfake pornography to protect adults and children from cyber abuse.

· Oct 20, 2023 Tweet

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

A new bill proposed in Wisconsin seeks to make the unauthorized creation of sexually explicit images through deepfakes illegal. Wisconsin needs to pass this bill into law to ensure Wisconsinites are protected from this type of cyber abuse.

Deepfakes are a type of synthetic media that can make individuals look as though they are saying or doing something through a video based on a photo. Deepfakes can be used to make it appear as if political figures or celebrities are saying something made up for comical purposes, however, deepfakes are also dangerous.

According to a study published by Deeptrace in 2019, 96% of deepfake content on the internet is pornographic. Additionally, deepfake pornography exclusively targets women, with 99% of videos on deepfake pornography sites including female individuals.

Deepfakes can be created from public social media posts, in which those photos can be manipulated and changed into hyper-realistic pornographic images or videos. In Wisconsin, this manipulation of photos is legal. This means that an individual can take a photo from someone’s Facebook, change it into a pornographic image through deepfake technology and would face no legal repercussions.

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This new bill seeks to change that. The bill would expand the punishment for capturing or disseminating non-consensual nude photos of a person to deepfakes, meaning those who disseminate deepfake pornography would be subject to up to three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Lawmakers behind this bill are particularly worried about the state of child deepfake pornography, in which photos of children can be lifted from their parents social media accounts on the internet and made into deepfake pornography.

There are many issues regarding privacy issues and artificial intelligence, including deepfakes. AI and deepfake technology is currently unregulated, which is dangerous for anyone on the internet or social media as their information can be spread or used in ways that they did not intend. 

Additionally, with the use of the internet for purposes like banking or other personal information, AI can makes sites susceptible to data breaches, resulting in an individual’s information being spread to those who should not have access to it.

There are also concerns about AI worsening biases, discrimination and abuse of surveillance and monitoring technologies when used by law enforcement or government agencies, according to the Economic Times.

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To prevent these issues, AI and deepfakes should be further regulated not only by the government, but also by social media sites. The government should put more laws into place regarding how much information AI should be able to utilize, or to help criminalize the creation of deepfake pornography like the Wisconsin bill.

Social media sites should also make it more difficult for AI to access personal information on their sites and ensure that their users’ privacy is protected.

Individuals can better protect themselves from data breaches or deepfakes by keeping most of their social media accounts private, posting less personal information and keeping all passwords written down on a piece of paper instead of in a notes app. For those who are parents, posting less photos of children may be the best way to keep their images safe.

Essentially, individuals should act responsibly and with the utmost awareness of what information they are posting online, and be wary of posting anything that may contain personal information.

There are also issues regarding the creation of deepfakes using the faces of private citizens or public figures like celebrities.

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About 99% of deepfakes on pornographic websites are of celebrities or public figures, according to “The State of Deepfakes” report written by Deeptrace. Though these individuals are in the public eye, that does not mean they should be susceptible to deepfake pornography. Private and public individuals should have the same legislation in regards to deepfake pornography, and creators of such content should face the same consequences whether it is of a private person or a celebrity.

In terms of deepfake creation in general, specifically content which is not pornographic, public figures should still have as serious of protections as private citizens, especially if they are being made to say something offensive or libelous. Just because celebrities choose to be public figures does not mean they should be able to be exploited by deepfake creators. Both private and public citizens deserve the same protection against deepfakes.

This proposed bill in Wisconsin is a good start to beginning regulation of deepfakes and AI in not only Wisconsin, but across the nation. In the wrong hands, Deepfake and AI technology can be extremely dangerous and needs to be regulated as much as possible by both the government and private internet sites like social media channels.

But, there is only so much regulation that can be put in place against this sort of technology. Individuals must be vigilant when posting or sharing things on the internet to ensure that their personal information cannot be used against them. With more regulation, hopefully AI and deepfakes will be less harmful in the near future.

Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.


This article was published Oct 20, 2023 at 2:00 pm and last updated Oct 14, 2023 at 5:24 pm


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