Portman, Schatz, Ernst, Heinrich, Gardner, Peters, Rounds, Hassan Praise Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Assess & Address Rising Threat of Deepfakes

October 25, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DCToday, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) applauded the Senate passage of 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 legislation requires DHS to assess the technology used to generate deepfakes, the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities, and available countermeasures to deepfakes, to help policymakers and the public better understand the threats deepfakes pose to our national security and election security. The bill will now head to the U.S. House of Representatives.   

“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 applaud my Senate colleagues for passing this bipartisan legislation and hope the House will take it up soon.”

“Fake content can damage our national security and undermine our democracy,” said Senator Schatz.  “Our bill, which passed the Senate today, directs the federal government to learn more about the scope of deepfake technology. It’s an important first step in fighting disinformation.”

“AI certainly provides a number of benefits, but some of its applications—like deepfakes—are misleading folks. This poses not only a threat to civil liberties, but to our national security,” said Senator Ernst. “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. The Senate has acted in a decisive way on our bipartisan bill, and I hope to see the House follow suit.”

“With the expanding presence and development of artificial intelligence, it is critical that Congress create a framework to study deepfake technologies and the potential harms they pose to our society – and our democracy,” said Senator Heinrich. “This legislation will not just identify the use of deepfakes, but create a necessary first step toward preventing the flow of malicious disinformation. I thank my Senate colleagues for heeding this warning, and hope the House will consider this bill soon.”

“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 Senate passing this bipartisan, historic legislation is a crucial first step toward the United States having a better understanding of how to approach the issues with technologies like deepfakes.”

“With each passing day, deepfakes become easier to create and distribute, opening the door for bad actors to sow discord and mislead thousands with just the click of a button,” said Senator Peters. “As we come to terms with this new reality, we must ensure Americans are aware of the risks this new technology poses, and are empowered to recognize misinformation. I’m pleased the Senate has approved this practical, bipartisan solution that will shine a light on this problem and help the public better understand and address the growing threat from deepfakes.”

“The rise of deepfakes for nefarious use is very concerning,” said Rounds. “For example, we know that bad actors have and will continue to try to influence our elections by manipulating what we see online. We must make sure we are taking steps to prevent that from occurring. By passing our legislation, the Senate took a positive step toward helping us better understand deepfakes so we can protect Americans from potentially damaging disinformation.”

“Deepfake technology is a national security risk, and it also undermines our ability to separate truth from lies, directly threatening our democracy,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation gives the Department of Homeland Security, along with lawmakers, the resources to better understand deepfakes and take pre-emptive steps to combat this emerging technology. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this critical bill without delay.”

NOTE: In May of 2019, U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Martin Heinrich launched the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, along with Caucus members Senators Joni Ernst, Brian Schatz, Cory Gardner, Gary Peters, Mike Rounds, and Maggie Hassan.