California enacts Senate bill to safeguard elections against disinformation and deepfakes

The law requires large online platforms to implement user authentication measures and labelling for influential users.

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California has passed Senate Bill 1228, requiring large online platforms to implement digital identity verification and labelling for influential users and those sharing significant amounts of AI-generated content. The law mandates semiannual reporting to the Attorney General regarding user authentication methods and public disclosure of authenticated accounts.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Steve Padilla, highlights the need to combat foreign interference and disinformation campaigns targeting US elections. By verifying the identities of accounts with substantial followings, the law seeks to mitigate the spread of false information and malicious content. Additionally, the legislative package includes measures like Assembly Bill (AB) 2839, which restricts deepfakes in campaign ads, and AB 2655, which addresses the labelling and regulation of generative AI deepfakes.

The laws were developed in collaboration with the California Initiative for Technology and Democracy (CITED) to address concerns about online misinformation and its potential impact on democratic processes. A survey reveals strong public support for measures promoting user authentication and legal accountability for online posts, reflecting growing concerns about spreading false information.

However, critics raise constitutional concerns and question the effectiveness of SB 1228’s criteria for identifying influential accounts. The experts point out potential flaws in the law, such as the definition of influential users based on view counts and AI-generated content volume, which may encompass genuine influencers and spam accounts. Despite these challenges, California’s legislative efforts signal a proactive approach to combating online misinformation and protecting electoral integrity.