Deepfakes have come under the spotlight once again, but this time round it’s not regarding some lighthearted fun. Instead, it revolves around the use of the technology for pornography and politics, with the state of California recently signing into law that the use of deepfakes is illegal.

The new law, which makes California the first in the US to do so, makes it illegal to manipulate anyone’s image or voice without their consent. Singed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, it is targeting deepfakes for use in politics in particular, with the threat of manipulated videos in order to discredit a candidate an increasing possibility.

The same law applies to pornography, especially for anyone who creates a video of someone by integrating their face without their consent. It’s unclear though how large a lawsuit that Californians will be able to file for should they be a victim of deepfakes.

With the technology powering deepfakes becoming increasingly convincing, such as the one below from Ctrl Shift Face featuring Bill Hader’s face being replaced by that of Tom Cruise, there needs to be regulation to ensure any nefarious videos can be tackled more effectively.

As always, this new law has received comment from both sides, particularly as it pertains to politics and editing videos in order to influence voters or the general public on a specific subject matter.

“Voters have a right to know when video, audio, and images that they are being shown, to try to influence their vote in an upcoming election, have been manipulated and do not represent reality,” said California assembly representative, Marc Berman.

“(That) makes deepfake technology a powerful and dangerous new tool in the arsenal of those who want to wage misinformation campaigns to confuse voters,” he adds.

Conversely the American Civil Liberties Union argues that this new law does not address the problem at hand. “Despite the author’s good intentions, this bill will not solve the problem of deceptive political videos,” the organisation said in a letter to Newsom.

“It will only result in voter confusion, malicious litigation and repression of free speech,” it concluded.

Either way the divisive nature of deepfakes only appears to be intensifying, especially as there are those out there using the technology to influence events outside of what it was originally intended.

As such it will become increasingly difficult to discern real from fake, which makes it all the more important for communities on social media to scrutinise what they see and not simply take it at face value.

[Image – Photo by Thom on Unsplash]