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Democracy Leaders Introduce Solutions to Curb Emerging Digital Threats

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, Assemblymember Berman (D-Menlo Park) joined key legislators and the California Initiative for Technology and Democracy (CITED), a project of California Common Cause, to announce package of bills to regulate the dangers that AI, deepfakes, and disinformation pose to our democracy. Together, these democracy leaders aim to take the first steps in meaningfully protecting California’s democracy and voters from one of its current greatest threats: disinformation turbocharged by generative AI and deepfakes.

“AB 2655 will ensure that online platforms restrict the spread of election-related deceptive deepfakes meant to prevent voters from voting or to deceive them based on fraudulent content," said Assemblymember Marc Berman. "Deepfakes are a powerful and dangerous tool in the arsenal of those that want to wage disinformation campaigns, and they have the potential to wreak havoc on our democracy by attributing speech and conduct to a person that is false or that never happened. Advances in AI make it easy for practically anyone to generate this deceptive content, making it that much more important that we identify and restrict its spread before it has the chance to deceive voters and undermine our democracy."

“AI and disinformation are an existential threat to our democracy, and we’ve reached a point of no return. Now is the time to act,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, California Common Cause’s executive director. “Using an unbiased, independent, interdisciplinary approach, CITED and our legislative partners have developed a legislative agenda that gets at the heart of what is shaping up to be one of the great issues of our lifetime, while upholding free speech and respecting technological innovation.”

Audio Feed: Below is a link with audio cuts from Assemblymember Marc Berman, plus full Press Conference.


CITED’s 2024 legislative package includes:

  • SB 1228 from Senator Steve Padilla. Gives social media users more information about the anonymous trolls and disinfo spreaders with the largest followings and the most power to make disinformation go viral.
  • AB 2839, from Assemblymember Gail Pellerin. Keeps misleading deepfakes out of campaign ads and independent expenditures close to Election Day, protecting candidates and elections officials.
  • AB 2655, from Assemblymember Marc Berman. Combats online disinformation regarding elections by labeling generative AI deepfakes, and restricting the most pernicious and obvious of them close to Election Day.

“Foreign adversaries hope to harness new and powerful technology to misinform and divide America this election cycle,” said Senator Steve Padilla. “Bad actors and foreign bots now have the ability to create fake videos and images and spread lies to millions at the touch of a button. We need to ensure our content platforms protect against the kind of malicious interference that we know is possible. Verifying the identities of accounts with large followings allows us to weed out those that seek to corrupt our information stream.”

“There have always been bad actors who try to wreak havoc on elections. I remember an election where people distributed door hangers which gave people the wrong polling location in order to disrupt the election outcome. But now the widespread access to generative AI is making that type of damage so much more sophisticated and easier to disseminate,” said Assemblymember Gail Pellerin. “Getting the right information to voters is crucial to a functioning democracy, and it becomes very difficult to ensure the integrity of the election when these deepfakes are spread online to intentionally misinform voters.”

Since 2020, voters have seen disinformation pollute our politics more than ever, and now with AI-generated deepfakes becoming a routine part of our information ecosystems, the issue is rapidly intensifying. We have already seen deepfakes destabilizing national elections in Argentina, Slovakia, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and the US presidential primary. Just as this problem is peaking, many technology and social media platforms are decreasing their investments in their trust and safety teams and walking away from any responsibility to address it. Voters are now left to pick up the pieces, not knowing what images, audio, and video they can trust.

CITED’s work has been informed by research and thought leadership from titans in tech, law, public policy, civil rights, civic engagement, and academia, and influenced by successes and emerging ideas from the European Union, the White House, Congress, and states around the country. Independent of industry and with bipartisan leadership, CITED provides analysis and guidance divorced from private agendas and partisanship.


Watch the full video here: Democracy Leaders Introduce Solutions to Emerging Digital Threats