MN lawmakers sounding alarm over dangerous AI technology

(ABC 6 News) – Advancing technology has Minnesota lawmakers sounding the alarm and struggling to keep up with the digital age.

A new bill in the legislature would create harsh punishments for anyone using artificial intelligence in a malicious way.

The bill is targeting what’s known as “deepfakes.” Wednesday, Minnesota Senate lawmakers passed a bill almost unanimously that would criminalize people who non-consensually share deepfake sexual images of others without their consent as well as people using deepfakes to hurt a political candidate or sway an election.

“What you are watching might not be real. Which is really a scary thing to think about,” said Rochester Sen. Liz Boldon.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, deepfakes are described as “a video or sound recording that replaces someone else’s face or voice with that of someone else, in a way that appears real.”

“You can put anybody’s face on anybody’s body and make it look like people are doing things that Sen. Boldon explained.

The author of the bill, Sen. Erin Mae Quade, says 96% of deepfakes on the internet are pornographic.

Experts say the scariest part is that it’s almost impossible to tell if the video is fake.

“The rate at which its advancing it outpaces our ability to regulate it which is also scary,” Sen. Boldon added.

A new bill flying through the Minnesota House and Senate would create criminal penalties for anyone distributing or posting deepfake sexual images of someone without their consent. In the Senate version , anyone distributing deepfakes would face a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

While penalties can be difficult to come to an agreement on in crimes like this, Olmsted County District Attorney Mark Ostrem says you have to consider how the victim is impacted.

“This is the type of case that we can’t undo the image. Once it’s out there in cyber space, we can never retrieve it and so its always going to be there for the rest of that persons life,” Ostrem explained.

The other aspect of the bill, would ensure deepfakes don’t hurt a political candidate or the integrity of an election.

“It’s deception and in a time of disinformation and misinformation around elections, which is dangerous in itself, this is sort of a new level of that,” said Sen. Boldon.

The house is expected to also pass the bill, and Sen. Boldon says she expects differences between the bills to be decided on next week, before it is expected to hit Gov. Walz’s desk.