Sen. Cruz Leads Colleagues in Unveiling Landmark Bill to Protect Victims of Deepfake Revenge Porn

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Ted Cruz
Office of Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today introduced the Tools to Address Known Exploitation by Immobilizing Technological Deepfakes on Websites and Networks (TAKE IT DOWN) Act to protect and empower victims of non-consensual intimate image abuse—also known as “revenge pornography.” The bill would criminalize the publication of non-consensual intimate imagery (NCII), including AI-generated NCII (or “deepfake pornography”), and require social media and similar websites to have in place procedures to remove such content upon notification from a victim. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Joe Manchin (I-W.Va.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Martin Heinrich (N. Mex.).

The internet is awash in NCII in large part from new generative artificial intelligence tools that can create lifelike, but fake, NCII depicting real people—also known as “deepfakes.” Disturbingly, this trend is increasingly affecting minors. A number of high-profile cases have involved young girls targeted by their classmates with deepfake NCII. Up to 95 percent of all internet deepfake videos depict NCII, with the vast majority targeting women and girls. The spread of these images—possibly in perpetuity if allowed to remain online—is having a profoundly traumatic impact on victims.

By requiring a notice and takedown process from websites that contain user generated content, including social media sites, the TAKE IT DOWN Act will ensure that, if the content is published online, victims are protected from being retraumatized again and again.

“In recent years, we’ve witnessed a stunning increase in exploitative sexual material online, largely due to bad actors taking advantage of newer technologies like generative artificial intelligence. Many women and girls are forever harmed by these crimes, having to live with being victimized again and again,” said Senator Cruz. “While some states provide legal remedies for victims of non-consensual intimate imagery, states would be further supported by a uniform federal statute that aids in removing and prosecuting the publication of non-consensual intimate images nationwide. By creating a level playing field at the federal level and putting the responsibility on websites to have in place procedures to remove these images, our bill will protect and empower all victims of this heinous crime.”

“Social media platforms and those that distribute revenge porn need to be held accountable,” Senator Capito said. “Our bill will make sure that even computer-generated deep fakes will not be allowed to stay online. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to help stop this sickening practice that has become far too common.”

“As artificial intelligence continues to grow and become more prevalent in daily life, we must prevent it from being used to produce non-consensual intimate images,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m helping introduce this bipartisan legislation to make it a crime to publicize these types of harmful images and videos, and establish guardrails to protect victims and hold online platforms accountable.”

“Artificial intelligence is the future and provides an infinite amount of possibilities of how this new technology can be used to improve lives around not only in this country, but across the entire globe. With any new industry comes the need to ensure it is not being used by bad actors, and AI is no different,” said Senator Lummis. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to protect people against malicious and dangerous deepfakes that also allows innovation to continue in the United States.”

“I’m proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing the TAKE IT DOWN Act to protect Americans, and especially young women and girls, from the disturbing trend of ‘deepfakes’ on the Internet,” said Senator Manchin. “As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, we have a responsibility in Congress to combat the threats that grow alongside of it, which includes holding individuals accountable for non-consensual, intimate images they post online. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation and, as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I will continue working to promote online safety for all West Virginians and Americans.”

“The shocking growth in online sexual exploitation and blackmailing requires a national response,” said Senator Budd. “The Take it Down Act builds on existing federal law, accounts for the growth in technologies that make it easier to create fake images, and establishes a requirement for websites to respond to victims and take down explicit material. I am proud to join my colleagues in the bipartisan effort to protect Americans from this growing crime and to bring those who perpetrate it to justice.”

“We are increasingly seeing instances where generative AI is used to create exploitative images of an individual based on a clothed image,” said Senator Young. “This bipartisan bill builds on existing federal law to protect Americans, particularly young women, from harmful deepfakes and establishes a requirement for websites to take down this type of explicit and disturbing material. This is a sensible step to protect Americans and establish appropriate guardrails.”

While nearly every state has a law protecting people from NCII, including 20 states with laws explicitly covering deepfake NCII, these state laws vary in classification of crime and penalty and have uneven criminal prosecution. Further, victims struggle to have images depicting them removed from websites, increasing the likelihood the images are continuously spread and victims are retraumatized.

In 2022, Congress passed legislation creating a civil cause of action for victims to sue individuals responsible for publishing NCII. However, bringing a civil action can be incredibly impractical. It is time-consuming, expensive, and may force victims to relive trauma. Further exacerbating the problem, it is not always clear who is responsible for publishing the NCII.

The TAKE IT DOWN Act would protect and empower victims of real and deepfake NCII while respecting speech by:

  • Criminalizing the publication of NCII in interstate commerce. The bill makes it unlawful for a person to knowingly publish NCII on social media and other online platforms. NCII is defined to include realistic, computer-generated pornographic images and videos that depict identifiable, real people. The bill also clarifies that a victim consenting to the creation of an authentic image does not mean that the victim has consented to its publication.
  • Protecting good faith efforts to assist victims. The bill permits the good faith disclosure of NCII, such as to law enforcement, in narrow cases.
  • Requiring websites to take down NCII upon notice from the victim. Social media and other websites would be required to have in place procedures to remove NCII, pursuant to a valid request from a victim, within 48 hours. Websites must also make reasonable efforts to remove copies of the images. The FTC is charged with enforcement of this section.
  • Protecting lawful speech. The bill is narrowly tailored to criminalize knowingly publishing NCII without chilling lawful speech. The bill conforms to current first amendment jurisprudence by requiring that computer-generated NCII meet a “reasonable person” test for appearing to realistically depict an individual.

The TAKE IT DOWN Act is supported by over three dozen organizations across the political spectrum, including: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC); TechNet; National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE); Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN); SAG-AFTRA; Public Citizen; IBM; Center for American Progress; American Psychological Association; American College of Pediatricians; National Association of Chiefs of Police; National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO); National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA); Major League Baseball (MLB); U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC); Becca Schmill Foundation; David’s Legacy Foundation; S.E.A.S.A.M.E. (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, & Exploitation); National Decency Coalition; SWGfL (StopNCII.org); Talk More. Tech Less; National Organization for Women (NOW); Reclaim Coalition; Joyful Heart Foundation; Institute for Strategic Dialogue; Family Policy Alliance; Hope for Justice; Thistle Farms; Citizens for Decency; Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS); 3Strands Global Foundation; Interparliamentary Taskforce on Human Trafficking; Street Grace; Enough Abuse; P@rn Free Colorado; National Children’s Alliance;  Institute for Family Studies; American Principles Project; National Association of Counties (NACo); and Bull Moose Project.

To read the organizations’ statements of support, click HERE.

To read the bill text, click HERE.

For a one-page summary of the TAKE IT DOWN Act, click HERE.

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