Texas deepfake law unlikely to survive scrutiny of the courts

Sept. 13, Jared Schroeder, SMU journalism professor specializing in Freedom of the Press issues, applauds the Texas “deepfake” laws but wonders if they will survive the scrutiny of the courts. Published in the Texas Tribune: http://bit.ly/2lGewSj

Texas this month became the first state to criminalize deepfakes — the practice of making it appear people said or did something they did not actually say or do with manipulated video or digital information. What concerns Texas lawmakers are deepfake videos, and especially those used for political purposes.

It’s a shame such good intentions, designed to thwart an emerging threat to democracy, are likely to be struck down by the courts. Without such a law, partisans can use artificial intelligence to create such convincing deepfake videos we literally will not be able to believe our own eyes.

While text can easily be used to mislead, video clips tend to be more believable. It puts the viewer in the moment. If politically motivated deepfakes become commonplace, our trust in information we encounter will falter. We simply will not know if what we are seeing happened or not. Truth could become whatever the deepfake puppeteers want it to be. . . 

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Efforts to compel social media ‘fairness’ go afoul on freedom of expression

Aug. 13, Jared Schroeder, SMU journalism professor, on a piece critiquing the Trump Administration’s executive order that attempts to compel social media platforms to be less “biased” against conservatives in their moderation efforts. Published in The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/457297-efforts-to-compel-social-media-fairness-go-afoul-on-freedom-of

The White House’s effort to draft an executive order to limit social media companies’ alleged biases against conservative voices gets everything wrong about freedom of expression. 

News of the proposed order, which is titled “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship,” emerged late last week. The order appears to suffer from a case of First Amendment amnesia. Even the name of the order shows a misunderstanding of freedom of expression, since the First Amendment protects us from government, not corporate, censorship.

The notion that social media companies can be compelled by the White House to make their online forums fair requires that the government can force private corporations to communicate information. This would set a dangerous precedent when it comes to freedom of expression, particularly since the government would decide what “fair” means. . .

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