Congress Takes Aim at Growing Crisis of Nonconsensual, Sexually Explicit Deepfakes


A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation aimed at tackling the growing issue of nonconsensual, sexually explicit deepfakes. Deepfakes are created using artificial intelligence to generate realistic and explicit depictions of individuals without their consent, often involving children. In 2019, a study from Deeptrace Labs found that, of all deepfake videos, 96% were nonconsensual pornography.

With hundreds of apps capable of generating such content on smartphones, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) emphasized the need for congressional action to address the “growing crisis”. For over a year, advocacy groups have pushed for legislation to combat deepfakes, including those surfaced of prominent public figures like Taylor Swift and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who has personally experienced the trauma of deepfakes.

The DEFIANCE Act, spearheaded by Ocasio-Cortez and Durbin, seeks to create a federal civil remedy for victims, allowing lawsuits against individuals who produced or possessed deepfakes with the intent to distribute them. Republicans, on the other hand, have introduced bills aimed at increasing fines for nonconsensual pornography from $150,000 to $500,000, and criminalizing the publication and threat to publish nonconsensual AI deepfakes.

The bipartisan TAKE IT DOWN Act, proposed by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would criminalize the publication and threaten to publish nonconsensual deepfakes, requiring websites and social media to remove the content to minimize distribution. Some lawmakers worry that tech companies will exploit Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech giants from liability associated with user-generated content, to avoid responsibility.

Lawmaker Carrie Goldberg, an attorney known for representing Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, advocates for dissolving this section altogether, believing it to put the concerns of Big Tech over those of internet victims.

“Victims of nonconsensual pornographic deepfakes have waited too long for federal legislation to hold perpetrators accountable,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Congress needs to act to show victims that they won’t be left behind.”

Peter McHugh
Peter McHugh

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