Lawmakers already looking to strengthen new deepfake law

Lawmakers already looking to strengthen new deepfake law

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(KSTP) – Just six months after a new state law went into effect banning deepfake video and audio in political campaigns, lawmakers are already considering adding new penalties.

The original bill calls for up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for disseminating deepfakes to influence an election. Now it adds a new penalty specifically aimed at candidates who knowingly allow it to happen.

“Senate File 3550 adds a conviction of disseminated deepfakes to the list of violations that could disqualify a candidate from holding various positions or allows a court to declare a candidate has forfeited a nomination,” Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, told the Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday.

The bill would also call for someone already in office to forfeit their position.

“This year’s provisions strengthen the deepfake bill and Clean Elections Minnesota urges you to pass SF 3550,” testified David Fischer of Clean Elections Minnesota.

The bill also adds new timelines to when the penalties can be enforced, within 30 days of a primary or state party convention nomination or 90 days before a general election. 

Although the bill passed with almost unanimous support in the House and Senate last year, some Republicans say this year’s bill might be rushed because the state hasn’t even had an election since the original deepfake law went into effect in August.

“We’re veering a lot closer to First Amendment issues than what we had before,” said Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton. “I also had a question…we haven’t even had an election to test how the law we applied last year went.”

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, the state’s chief elections officer, doesn’t take a position on specific penalties but supports anything that strengthens laws against deepfakes.

 “In the wrong hands, AI and deepfakes, in particular, can be a real danger in the sense they can mislead and misdirect voters,” Simon told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The new bill passed the Senate Elections Committee on a voice vote and goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee next.