State passes laws to create protection against AI bills

Published 12:23 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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By Mackenzie Foster

Special to the Demopolis Times

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to rise, so much so that state lawmakers have drafted legislation to get ahead of potential cybercrimes.

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Rep. Matt Woods, R-Walker County, introduced HB168, which has now been signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. The new law is expected to protect children from inappropriate AI-generated content. 

Woods’ bill allows for legal repercussions for perpetrators that create pornographic AI-generated images of children younger than 18. Woods says the idea to draft the bill came to him after a friend, who now lives in Demopolis, told Woods their 14-year-old daughter’s face was featured in a pornographic AI-generated image. 

“I started looking at our laws. And we have a good child pornography law; however, people are starting to use the defense [that] the images being created are not of an actual person,” Woods said. “I did not want to see anyone, in the state of Alabama, be able to use that as a defense to create foul and disgusting images.” 

Woods says he holds a lot of pride in his AI protection bill. He even enlisted the help of another political figure to create a strong bill. 

“I would like to think that my bill is one of the strongest in the country as it relates to child pornography,” Woods said. “It doesn’t leave a lot of loopholes to be used for defensive child pornographers. 

“I worked on this bill with Attorney General, Steve Marshall. Working with his office to help come up with the language of this bill to make sure it was as strong and tight as it could possibly be. We both share the desire to have the strongest child pornography bill in the country and I do believe we’re right there at it.” 

One Alabama senator said in a perfect scenario, laws on personal protection from AI would have been created on a federal level first. 

“[We] would have a uniformed law across the country that would apply to all states,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. “Unfortunately, the federal government and Congress have not acted in this space, and as a result, states are having to do it.” 

Alabama did not have any direct laws that punish the use and distribution of AI-generated pornographic images that are made without a person’s consent. State lawmakers are pushing for legislation that will have perpetrators of pornographic AI-generated images legally punished. 

Rep. Parker Moore, R-Huntsville, said he learned of a woman who worked at Redstone Arsenal who discovered her male coworker created AI-generated pornographic images of her, which included her face, without her knowledge and consent. 

“She was mortified because she had no clue, and unfortunately because it’s AI, there’s nothing on the books that would address this issue,” Moore said. 

With no precedent law on determining a punishment for a situation like Moore described, he decided to start investigating similar cases and draft a bill that would protect people from AI-generated content. 

“There’s more and more situations that are going on and happening all over the state,” Moore said. “I felt like it was an area of issue that needed to be addressed during this whole process.” 

Moore’s bill, HB161, states that a person cannot create a ‘personal’ AI-generated image without someone’s consent. Moore says it’s important for the state to start working on ways to combat crimes that could come from AI.  

“There’s a whole spectrum of [that stuff] that’s basically uncharted territory that we’re looking to address,” Moore said. 

Although Woods does hold a position in state government, he says creating images that could heavily affect children affects him on a personal level. 

“I may be a legislator, but I’m also a father first. I have a daughter and I think about how this could happen to anybody,” Woods said. “I certainly do not want to see anyone, especially a child, suffer the mental pain, anguish and ridicule that comes along with being a victim of child pornography in any form.”

Both Moore’s bill and Woods’ bill have passed the House. The next step for their bills is to be voted on in the Senate. 

Mackenzie Foster is a Troy University student. This article is part of a project funded by the Alabama Press Association.