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Bill limiting political speech sails out of legislature despite objection from CNPA, free speech groups

The Senate and the Assembly in its last week of session 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.

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 Assembly on a 67-4 vote while the Senate voted its approval 29-7.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 13 to take action on the measure.

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