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Bill limiting political speech easily passed by committee despite objection from CNPA and free speech groups

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed AB 730 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), which would prohibit the dissemination of images and audio or video recordings of candidates within 60 days of an election if the image or recording has been manipulated with the intent to injure the candidate’s reputation unless a specified disclosure is provided.

Though originally conceived as a bill to address the use of deepfake audio and video recordings that could interfere in elections by tricking voters into thinking a candidate said or did something they did not do – a premise that is itself difficult, if not impossible, to codify without offending the First Amendment – the bill applies much more broadly. Amendments proposed in the Senate Judiciary Committee would further expand the bill’s application to any altered image or recording that would cause a viewer to “understand or experience the expressive content… in a manner that is fundamentally different” as compared to the unaltered image or recording.

CNPA, the ACLU, and the California Broadcasters Association oppose the bill. Despite the grave concerns expressed by these groups about how the bill threatens the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment, the bill was passed by the committee on a 6-2 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

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