Bipartisan legislators in the United States have introduced the DEFIANCE (Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits) Act of 2024, aimed at addressing the escalating issue of dangerous and abusive deepfake content on the internet. This legislative response comes in the wake of a disturbing incident involving global pop sensation Taylor Swift, whose likeness was exploited in AI-generated explicit images that circulated widely on social media platforms.
The DEFIANCE Act
The DEFIANCE Act takes a bold step towards holding perpetrators accountable for the dissemination of digitally forged, sexually explicit content. The primary focus of the legislation is to empower victims, particularly women, allowing them to seek legal recourse against those responsible for creating and spreading such harmful deepfakes.
According to a 2019 study cited by the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, a staggering 96% of deepfake videos involve non-consensual pornography. The sheer volume of these maliciously crafted digital forgeries has prompted lawmakers to address the urgent need for protective measures.
Catalyst for Change
The catalyst for the DEFIANCE Act was a deeply distressing deepfake incident involving Taylor Swift, which garnered a disturbing 45 million views and 24,000 reposts. Swift justice was served when social media giant X (formerly Twitter) took swift action, banning the account of the original poster and aggressively targeting other accounts sharing similar content. However, the legislation seeks to go beyond social media platform interventions and establish a legal framework for combating such offenses.
US Senator Josh Hawley, a key proponent of the DEFIANCE Act, emphasized the importance of protecting innocent individuals from being featured in AI-generated pornography. He stated, “Nobody—neither celebrities nor ordinary Americans—should ever have to find themselves featured in AI pornography. Innocent people have a right to defend their reputations and hold perpetrators accountable in court. This bill will make that a reality.”
The DEFIANCE Act acknowledges the severe real-world consequences of deepfake victimization, recognizing that individuals may face job loss and enduring psychological effects like anxiety and sadness. The legislation extends legal protections to victims, covering images depicting them engaging in explicit or sexual behaviors. Furthermore, it safeguards victims’ privacy throughout legal proceedings and provides an extended timeframe for filing lawsuits.
As technology advances, so too must the legal protections designed to safeguard individuals from the malicious use of AI-generated content. The DEFIANCE Act of 2024 emerges as a beacon of hope in the fight against deepfake exploitation, signaling a united effort by legislators to defend the dignity of individuals impacted by this evolving digital threat.