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California AB 1831: Protecting the Vulnerable in the Age of AI

In a rare change of pace for states, California has introduced artificial intelligence (AI) legislation that works to stop criminal acts using AI. Assembly Bill 1831 (AB 1831) marks a significant milestone in the state’s ongoing efforts to stop child-sexual abuse material (CSAM) by filling gaps in existing laws with respect to AI.

Understanding AB 1831: A Brief Overview

Today, possession of CSAM is illegal. But the current text of the law requires the images to be real. This means criminals can use the letter of the law to escape the purpose of the law – using AI to modify images of CSAM and thus make prosecution impossible. AB 1831 fixes this legal gap. 

The bill updates existing law so that it is still a crime if an image is manipulated using AI to show a real child but in an obscene position. 

The Significance of AB 1831

AB 1831 is a commendable step by California lawmakers to address the gaps in existing law and protect children from the unique threats posed by predators exploiting digital innovations. The bill’s current iteration, however, raises constitutional concerns that should be addressed to make sure that criminals don’t escape justice.

Looking Ahead: Collaboration for Effective Legislation

NetChoice is eager to collaborate with California lawmakers to refine AB 1831, ensuring it effectively safeguards children from online predators without inadvertently targeting the tools themselves. By focusing on the actual criminals and their crimes, this legislation can set a precedent for other states and countries grappling with similar issues in the digital age.

We hope to work with bill authors to ensure that the AB 1831 is constitutional and thus enforceable against criminals. One necessary change is to have the law apply only to images of real people, not fictitious. While grotesque, application of AB 1831 to fictitious minors will render the law unconstitutional and thus unenforceable under Supreme Court decisions like Ashcroft v. ACLU. This will result in an unacceptable delay in justice being served.

NetChoice’s Stance: A Balanced Perspective

NetChoice, a prominent voice in the discourse surrounding AI and digital policy, recognizes the dual nature of all tools, including generative AI tools. While these tools offer immense potential for positive use, they can also be abused by malevolent actors. Existing laws mostly address such crimes, but the unique challenges posed by generative AI call for specific legal updates.

NetChoice advocates for an approach that refines existing laws to combat the nefarious use of AI, as exemplified by the Stop Deepfake CSAM Act

A Praise for Proactive Legislation

The introduction of AB 1831 by California lawmakers is a testament to the state’s commitment to protecting its most vulnerable citizens in the digital realm. While adjustments may be necessary to ensure its effectiveness and constitutional soundness, AB 1831 represents a thoughtful, proactive approach to addressing the complex challenges posed by the misuse of AI. We look forward to seeing how this legislation evolves and the positive impact it will undoubtedly have on safeguarding children in the digital world.