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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SCOTUS caught imagining ‘illegitimate motives’ in census case

July 17, Lackland Bloom, an SMU law professor, for a piece that offers context and commentary on the SCOTUS ruling against the Trump Administration regarding a citizenship question in the Census. Published online in the Orange County Register: http://bit.ly/2StdNQE

In the much publicized case of Department of Commerce v New York (the Census Case), decided on the final day of the Supreme Court’s most recent term, the Court, by a 5-4 vote, decided that the Secretary of Commerce could not add a question pertaining to citizenship to the 2020 census.

As with most Supreme Court decisions, media coverage focused on the specific result in the case, which was seen, and celebrated by many, as a defeat for President Trump. The result in the case may or may not have long term significance.

However, the case presented the Court with a very important opportunity of which it failed to take advantage. The majority invalidated the addition of the citizenship question to the census on the ground that the Secretary of Commerce’s explanation for the addition of the question, aiding in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, was pretextual.

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