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Deep fake sexual images bills pass Michigan House

East side of the state Capitol exterior in the autumn.
Lester Graham
/
Michigan Public
A bill package to ban the non-consensual dissemination of sexual “deep fakes” passed the state House Wednesday, making its way to the Senate.

It could become a crime in Michigan to spread fake sexual content of someone that’s made to seem realistic. A bill package to ban the non-consensual dissemination of sexual “deep fakes” passed the state House Wednesday, making its way to the Senate.

Package co-sponsor, Representative Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing), said the issue has gotten worse over the last five years.

“Victims of these nonconsensual deep fakes have experienced mental distress, financial harms, and even suicide as a direct result,” Tsernoglou said during a floor speech.

The legislation would make it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison to create and share sexual deep fakes without permission. In civil court, a victim could sue someone for damages, the profit that person made from the deep fake, and a fine of up to $100,000.

Representative Matt Bierlein (R-Vassar) co-sponsored the legislation with Tsernoglou. He said the punishment needs to match the damage the crime could cause.

“The results of the actions are pretty bad. You can ruin somebody’s reputation, their marriage, their work life. They are used in extortion cases, you know, they create a video and say I’m going to show your spouse if you don’t pay us,” Bierlein said.

The bills passed with nearly full support from the state House of Representatives.

Representative Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) is one of two lawmakers who voted against the measure.

Carra said he agrees deep fakes are a problem and was looking into his own legislation. But he was concerned about the hefty fines, as well as language that wouldn’t allow someone to claim they had verbal consent to spread a deep fake.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate to take away this defense opportunity for somebody who has something accused of them,” Carra said.

 

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