Portman, Heinrich, Ernst, Schatz, Gardner, Peters, Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Assess & Address Rising Threat of Deepfakes

Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus Pushes Bipartisan Legislation to Help Policymakers Counter Deepfakes

June 28, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DCToday, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the co-founders of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, along with Caucus members Joni Ernst (R-IA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced the Deepfake Report Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct an annual study of deepfakes and other types of similar content. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The measure requires DHS to assess the technology used to generate deepfakes, the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities, available countermeasures to deepfakes, as well as proposed changes to, or creations of, additional statutory and regulatory authorities to address the rising threat of deepfakes. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Pete King (R-NY), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Will Hurd (R-TX) have introduced the legislation in the House. 

“As AI rapidly becomes an intrinsic part of our economy and society, AI-based threats, such as deepfakes have become an increasing threat to our democracy,” said Senator Portman. “Addressing the challenges posed by deepfakes will require policymakers to grapple with important questions related to civil liberties and privacy. This bill prepares our country to answer those questions and address concerns by ensuring we have a sound understanding of this issue. As concerns with deepfakes grow by the day, I urge my colleagues to swiftly pass this bipartisan legislation.”

"Deepfake technology is an example of how AI can be used in ways that can be damaging to our society and our democracy,” said Senator Heinrich.  Any policy response needs to distinguish carefully between legitimate, protected speech and content that is intended to spread disinformation. This legislation will help increase awareness of deepfake technology and is a necessary first step toward determining how to address this growing threat." 

“AI certainly provides a number of benefits; however, some of its applications—like deepfakes—are misleading folks across the country. This poses not only a threat to civil liberties, but to our national security. As our federal agencies work to understand deepfakes, it’s important we streamline the information-gathering process and share resources in order to prevent duplicative efforts,” said Senator Joni Ernst. 

“We have already seen that fake content can do a lot of damage. This is not the moment to stand around and do nothing,” said Senator Schatz. “This bill directs the federal government to take an active role in countering this threat.”

“Artificial intelligence presents enormous opportunities for improving the world around us but also poses serious challenges,” said Senator Gardner. “Deepfakes can be used to manipulate reality and spread misinformation quickly. In an era where we have more information available at our fingertips than ever, we have to be vigilant about making sure that information is reliable and true in whichever form it takes. The United States needs to have a better understanding of how to approach the issues with technologies like deepfakes and this bipartisan legislation is a crucial step in that direction.”

“When we see something with our own eyes, we tend to believe it, and video has become an important way for people around the world to communicate and share information,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Deepfakes have the potential to undermine our trust in what we see and hear by creating deceptive content that poses a threat to everything from public safety to our democracy. This bill will task our top intelligence and defense experts with shining a light on these rapidly developing threats and the implications forged content can have on our society.”  

“I support Senator Portman and the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus’ efforts on the digital forgery threat through the Deepfakes Report Act. Digitally forged videos and content are a clear, present, and rapidly developing threat, and this Act is a good first step in focusing Congressional and Executive attention,” said Former House Intel Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI). 

"Recent technological advances are making it possible to create deepfakes—hyper-realistic multimedia that falsely depicts real-world events. Deep-fakes present significant new challenges to media consumption by disrupting the traditional notion that "seeing is believing." Policymakers need to understand this new form of disinformation, and this legislation provides the groundwork for assessing and evaluating their impact," said Daniel Castro, Center for Data Innovation at ITIF.