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Rep. Matt Woods: Alabama Child Protection Act will combat AI-generated pornography

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It can make our lives easier; it can help us solve complex problems; it can even save lives.  But we must remember that while technology can be used to solve many of our old problems, it always seems to create a new set of problems that must be addressed.

A prime example of this is the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which has been a major technological breakthrough has also resulted in the proliferation of morphed or artificially-generated child pornography. 

Recently, I was contacted by a friend who told me about her daughter’s tragic experience with digitally-morphed pornography created from an actual innocent image. This young girl’s face was imposed onto the body of someone engaged in extremely explicit sexual activities. This is known as “deepfake” pornography.

In her case, the alleged perpetrator–a 14-year-old classmate–used an easily accessible website that generates pornographic images at no cost.

Imagine the horror of being a high school student and having your face imposed on a nude image or worse yet your likeness used to make a pornographic movie that is shared with your classmates. Imagine facing the perpetrator each day in class while bearing the shame of something you didn’t do.

This innocent young girl had her image altered in a lewd and heinous way for all the world to see. Today our young people are under more mental health stress than ever before now they must deal with the threat of deep fake pornography too. I cannot idly sit by and watch our children be robbed of their innocence. 

Under current Alabama law, children under the age of 17 are protected against child pornography. I am proposing legislation that will raise that age limit to anyone under the age of 18.

My legislation will also provide victims of child pornography with a civil remedy. Violators will be liable for actual damages, legal fees, and punitive damages up to $10,000 per image for all forms of child pornography involving actual children.

After discussions with Attorney General Steve Marshall’s Office, it has also come to my attention that our state laws lag behind when it comes to fully simulated child pornography. Although purely artificial child pornography may not involve actual child victims, it has no societal value—instead, feeding the evil of pedophilia and child abuse.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court struggled with this issue two decades ago, working with our Attorney General, I am prepared to prohibit this practice in Alabama in a manner that will withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Our prosecutors need not be hamstrung in their pursuit of child pornographers by having to first discern whether highly sophisticated electronic images involve real victims. 

I want Alabama to have the strongest laws in the country when it comes to protecting our children from predators who want to exploit them. That’s why I’m filing the Alabama Child Protection Act ahead of the upcoming 2024 legislative session.

This a national problem, and one that Alabama should lead the way in addressing. We must send a crystal-clear message that child sexual abuse material, in all its forms, will not be tolerated in Alabama.

As technology evolves, our laws should too. Our children deserve the best protections possible, and this legislation will enhance our ability to hold those who want to exploit our children accountable.

The Alabama Child Protection Act can truly make a difference in our fight against child exploitation.

Matt Woods is a father and small business owner from Jasper, AL. A Republican, Woods represents District 13 in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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