Assemblymember Paulin is Introducing Legislation to Penalize the Dissemination of Nonconsensual Deepfake Images

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Amy Paulin is introducing legislation to protect residents from the harm of “deepfake” images disseminated in online communities by making their nonconsensual use both a criminal and civil offense. 

“Deepfakes” are fake or altered images or videos created through the use of artificial intelligence. Many of these images and videos map a face onto a pornographic image or video. Some create a pornographic image or video out of a still photograph. These pornographic images and films are then posted online without the consent of those in them – often with devastating consequences to those portrayed in the images.

Following the introduction of the bill, Assemblymember Paulin said, “This legislation makes the creation and sharing of these deepfakes both a crime and civil offense. Regardless of the motivation for creating and distributing deepfakes - whether it was to humiliate, coerce, control or distress an individual – under this bill the perpetrator will be prosecuted under NYS Penal Code as well as subject to civil liability.”

According to recent cybersecurity data, deepfakes are growing exponentially - doubling every six months. Deepfakes also disproportionally victimize women. Of those currently circulating online, research shows that over 90 percent depict non-consensual porn featuring women.

There is also significant evidence that intimate image abuse harms women more and in different ways than it harms men. Researchers have found that the mental health impacts on women are akin to those suffered by victims of sexual assault. These effects include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and worsening physical health and financial harm either through time off work or through withdrawing from online spaces. In some cases, there have been reports of attempted suicide and self-harm.

When women’s images are posted onto pornography sites, they are humiliated, shamed and often receive demeaning and frightening messages from men who have viewed their images. Women have also reported feeling unsafe and constantly on alert while in public or around men they don’t know and trust. The threat of violence is exacerbated when personal information about the victim is shared alongside the image.

This type of intimate image abuse has also been used as a mechanism for “shutting women up.” Some women may shut down their blogs, avoid websites they formerly frequented, take down social networking profiles, refrain from engaging in online political commentary, and choose not to maintain potentially lucrative or personally rewarding online presences.

It is also important to recognize that the sharing of and threats to share these images can be used in abusive relationships as a mechanism of coercion and control. Women in abusive relationships often already find it extremely challenging to leave or go to the police for a myriad of reasons. It is clear that intimate image abuse makes leaving abusive relationships and reporting the perpetrator harder still.

This bill is a first step to prevent the proliferation of deepfakes, providing victims with a cause of action for them, and ensuring that appropriate remedies are available under both our New York Civil Code and Penal Code where they can be prosecuted as serious offenses.