Home>Articles>‘Deepfake’ Videos Of Political Candidates in Ads Now Illegal In California
Marc Berman authored the "Deepfake" bill.
Assemblyman Marc Berman. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

‘Deepfake’ Videos Of Political Candidates in Ads Now Illegal In California

Altered footage of candidates can not run by law within 60 days of an election

By Evan Symon, October 7, 2019 8:17 pm

Manipulated photos, video, and audio, specifically “deepfake” videos that alter candidates to say or look like something or someone else, has been made illegal in California.

Under the new law, which was passed in the form of AB 730, an altered video, picture, or audio clip of a candidate cannot run within 60 days of an election.

Deepfake videos in particular are targeted, as they are often confused for being real due to how lifelike they can look. 

Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) authored AB 730 in the hope that faked footage or media would not alter the election or change votes.

“Deepfakes are a powerful and dangerous new technology that can be weaponized to sow misinformation and discord among an already hyper-partisan electorate,” said Assemblyman Berman. “Deepfakes distort the truth, making it extremely challenging to distinguish real events and actions from fiction and fantasy.”

Assemblyman Berman enjoyed a majority of Assembly and Senate votes, as well as the support from many political and citizen groups who oppose manipulation like “deepfaking.”

A few Democrat and Republican lawmakers voted no, as there was worry over First Amendment and personal freedom issues involved. Groups such as the ACLU also opposed the new law, as they made a case in it violating the First Amendment.

Experts have warned that the law will be hard to enforce, as internet footage may be hard to take down, and there are questions regarding copyright laws with the footage. There is also concern that the bill is not addressing the main problem, as the altered video is still allowed to run as long as there is a disclaimer beforehand.

“The video can still get out at the end, through a disclaimer that hits the bare requirements for how long it’s shown,” said attorney Zach Gaston. “It’s under parody law, so you’ll see this pop up all over the place on TV and the internet. All AB 730 did was specify a certain type of place where it couldn’t be run, at the same time allowing it to be run with no issue.”

AB 730 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom and is only valid until 2023 when it will be reviewed to see how successful it was and what changes would be needed due to better technology in the future.

Evan Symon
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