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Deepfake porn targets high schoolers

​Eye of a woman with binary code and the lettering AI.

Eye of a woman with binary code and the lettering AI.

IMAGO/Christian Ohde via Reuters Connect

A high schooler in New Jersey is calling for state and federal legislation to prevent the use of deepfakes in nonconsensual pornographic images. Francesca Mani, 14, was one of 30 female students at Westfield High School whose photographs were digitally manipulated and shared among students.


Mani seems to have identified a legal gray zone. There is currently no federal law banning the creation or distribution of nonconsensual deepfake pornography, and First Amendment advocates have warned against broad regulations that could criminalize or chill protected speech. Nine states have laws on the books, and while some of these laws specifically target deepfake porn that includes images of minors, there seems to be some ambiguity over whether such images constitute child pornography under federal law. Under some state laws, such as those in New York and California, victims can sue the creators of these deepfakes in civil court.

Bottom line: As deepfakes get easier to use and more prevalent, the harm they cause will become impossible to ignore. One legislator representing Westfield in the New Jersey State Senate told The Wall Street Journal he plans to draft a bill to criminalize this kind of behavior. “This has to be a serious crime in New Jersey,” he said.

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