In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections, the concept of “deepfakes” has become one of the buzzwords to reinforce the idea that content posted on social media platforms can be used to successfully sway voters.
Deepfakes are manipulated audio and video recordings that are sophisticated enough to pass off as the real thing – and they're not new.
Previously, this kind of technology was used to produce special effects for movies, and by spy agencies promoting their propaganda. But with all more and more technology increasingly becoming more readily available to everyone, including the software used to produce such content – this has now been elevated to a real problem.
So much so that lawmakers in Texas recently passed new legislation regulating the issue to the extent of making the creation and distribution of deepfake videos a criminal offense. But in doing so, they may have infringed on the free speech protections guaranteed to US citizens by the First Amendment, The Texas Tribune reports.
The website takes a rather hard stance on the actual danger posed by deepfake videos, promoting them to a force powerful enough to change the way we perceive such fundamental things as reality and truth. One could say the same of any false information and propaganda – but the article argues that videos are some orders of magnitude more dangerous.
And just how closely tied to the election campaign the Texas law is becomes evident in the fact that it criminalizes creation and distribution of deepfake videos – “within 30 days of an election.”
Now that the law has been passed in Texas, US courts will be weighing the merits of those fears, against the damage such legislation can do to free speech – and they are reportedly likely to err on the side of protecting free speech.
Another point that might trip up the new Texas law – the first of its kind in the US – is the fact it goes against federal US rules that protect social media companies and exempt them from legal liability for content published by users. By contrast, the law declares them as publishers that are responsible for any deepfake videos that might be posted on their platforms.