GOP senator who blocked anti-deepfake porn bill backed by VC firm that invested in AI platform enabling deepfake porn

TensorSpark/Adobe Stock Rrose Selavy/Adobe Stock Cynthia Lummis (Licensed)

Bill to fight non-consensual deepfakes blocked by senator—she’s backed by VC firm invested in deepfakes

Lummis said the proposed bill could stifle innovation.

 

Katherine Huggins

Tech

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.) on Wednesday singlehandedly blocked legislation designed to counter the rise of deepfake porn and AI-generated sexually explicit images.

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Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who had requested unanimous consent for his bipartisan bill to pass, said he was “seriously disappointed” by Lummis’ decision to block the unanimous consent request.

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In his remarks on the Senate floor, Durbin said that the legislation would give victims “the ability to hold civilly liable those who produce, disclose, solicit, or possess sexually explicit deepfakes” without consent.

“Time and again, victims are told that nothing can be done to help them, because existing laws simply do not apply to deepfakes,” Durbin said. “This is not just a gap in the law. It is an omission that shows blatant disregard for the trauma of children, women, and girls who are victimized by this crime.”

Sexually explicit deepfake images have roiled the internet lately, with celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people falling victim.

In Australia, a teenager was arrested after allegedly using AI technology to create deepfake pornographic images of about 50 schoolgirls. And the internet has seen fake, sexually explicit images of singer Megan Thee Stallion, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), podcaster Bobby Althoff, and more.

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Lummis blocked Durbin’s bill on the grounds that it could stifle innovation.

“I strongly support the intent behind this legislation. We must combat the deeply harmful practice of non-consensual deepfake pornography … but I’m troubled that this bill as currently drafted is overly broad in scope,” she said. “The expansive definitions and wide net of liability in this bill could lead to unintended consequences that stifle American technological innovation and development.”

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Lummis has previously cautioned against possible misuse of AI technology, telling Fox News last year that a friend showed her ChatGPT.

“Its capabilities are kind of intimidating,” she said. “They’re impressive, but the potential for mischief and misuse are high.”

The senator is known for her work around technology, particularly promoting cryptocurrency, and co-founded the Financial Innovation Caucus with retiring Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

It’s thus unsurprising that many of Lummis’ biggest donors come from the crypto and venture capital world. But some of her donors have a stake in AI technology and the deepfakes associated with it.

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According to Federal Election Commission records, since 2022, between her leadership political action committee Steer PAC and fundraising committees, Lummis has received nearly $55,000 from three top leaders at Andreessen Horowitz, including more than $16,000 from both Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz.

In November, 404 Media reported that Andreessen Horowitz was an investor in Civitai, a platform for AI model sharing that had profited from nonconsensual sexual deepfake images of real people.

Civitai was accused of allowing “bounties” on the site, rewards for people to make deepfakes of real people. In response to the story, Civitai was dropped by its cloud hosting service.

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It later added new content moderation tools.

Lummis also received nearly $36,000 since 2021 from top employees at Multicoin Capital, an investment firm focused on cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and blockchain companies.

Among Multicoin’s portfolio is Alethea AI, a platform that has worked with deepfake technology—but also claims it works to mitigate it. It says its machine learning platform focuses on identifying disinformation campaigns online.

Lummis is not the only lawmaker to count AI technology investors among her donors.

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Leaders at both of the aforementioned firms have given to a host of other politicians. Multicoin employees have donated to Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tom Emmer (R-Minn.). Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and French Hill (R-Ark.) have gotten money from Andreessen Horowitz.

She has also received funds from Berkshire Hathaway’s PAC, whose CEO Warren Buffett has adamantly opposed deepfake technology after seeing a faked video of himself.

Lummis and Andreessen Horowitz did not respond to requests for comment. Multicoin declined to comment to the Daily Dot.

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