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Governor signs bill limiting political speech over objections by CNPA, free speech groups

Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 730 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), which prohibits individuals or groups from distributing manipulated political videos within 60 days of an election.

The bill prohibits 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.

Recent amendments 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, the California Cable and Technology Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested that the Governor veto the bill.

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