IN Brief

House panel advances bill criminalizing nonconsensual AI nudity

By: - January 10, 2024 3:54 pm

Indiana lawmakers are extending the state's revenge porn law to AI-generated nude images. (Getty Images)

The House Courts and Criminal Codes committee unanimously voted Wednesday to move a bill adding computer-generated nude pictures of real people to Indiana’s revenge pornography statute — despite reservations over the legislation’s wording.

Technological advancements have made the computer creation of synthetic nudes simpler than ever, said Courtney Curtis, with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

In a deepfake, a person’s face can be pasted onto another’s body, making it appear as though the person said or did things that they did not. That technology emerged in 2020.

And it’s progressed since then. Now, websites and apps can take real photographs or videos and digitally remove the subject’s clothing.

“What is kind of insidious about this is that these images can be taken off of an individual’s social media,” Curtis said. “… Anyone can be a victim.”

Middle and high school students in New Jersey, Washington and Wisconsin have been targeted by the fake imagery, according to news reports.

Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica (Photo from Indiana House Republicans website)

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation even warned in June that “malicious actors” are harassing or blackmailing children and non-consenting adults with synthetic nudes.

Indiana’s revenge pornography statute, however, only criminalizes intimate images and videos that are non-consensually distributed by the people who snapped the pictures or shot the clips.

“We’re just not currently covering it,” Curtis said.

But House Bill 1047 could run afoul of the First Amendment, the Indiana Public Defender Commission cautioned.

Staff attorney Joel Wieneke said the legislation’s language is too broad and could pull in cartoonish representations of people or lead to prosecution of people who see the imagery but weren’t involved in its creation.

He suggested the lawmakers tweak the text to require that the synthetic nudes actually resemble real people in order to be a crime and edit language criminalizing dissemination without creation.

The law would retain its 2019 consequences: a Class A misdemeanor unless the perpetrator is a repeat offender. Then, it’s a Level 6 felony.

Committee members voted 10-0 to advance the bill, with author Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, vowing to continue working on the phrasing.

The bill advanced with an amendment temporarily waiving the state’s statute of limitations to ensure Boy Scouts settlement claimants to receive the full amount they’re owed. The House passed that proposal last year but the Senate killed it.

Negele said it was the legislature’s last chance to make the change for the 760 Hoosier abuse survivors, as the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy settlement’s window for changes closes in April — before next session.

The legislation will next be heard on the House floor.

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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie covers state government for the Indiana Capital Chronicle with emphases on elections, infrastructure and transportation. She previously covered city-county government for the Indianapolis Business Journal. She has also reported on local, national and international news for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and more. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

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