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How a Photoshopped Dade Phelan Image Might Spark Legislation Against Deepfakes

A mailer showing a photoshopped image of House Speaker Dade Phelan hugging former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could inspire legislation against “deepfakes” in political ads.

According to a report by The Texas Tribune, political attorney Andrew Cates proposed at a hearing of the House Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies to update a 2019 law that created a Class A misdemeanor for distributing a deepfake video created to deceive voters.

Currently, the law, SB 751, only focuses on deep fake videos released within 30 days of an election. The mailer was an image and was sent just outside of that time frame.

“Not to bring up sensitive stuff, but the speaker got hit a couple days ago with a fake image, or a deceptively altered image,” Cates said. “It’s not against the law here.”

Cates also suggested that the law should be updated to include radio, sound, speech and text, while also making it a third-degree felony.

The mailer showed a fake image of Phelan hugging Pelosi and saying that Phelan “is backed by the same PAC bankrolling Pelosi.”

The mailer was sent by the Club for Growth Action, a political action committee that typically raises money for hard-right federal campaigns. The PAC’s top donor is Jeff Yass, the Pennsylvania billionaire who donated $6 million to Gov. Greg Abbott in January.

The mailer also contained another false image of Phelan at a Texas House Democratic Caucus news conference.

Committee Chair Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, suggested that the Legislature may need to update the law.

“It was multiple images, one on each side, and what’s a video but multiple images played really quickly?” Capriglione said. “The reason, though, is because it’s unfair, it’s deliberately made to deceive individuals — especially because AI can make things look so realistic and, obviously, neither of those two images actually happened.”

On April 27, Phelan said his runoff opponent David Cove had reached “a new low.”

“The Covey campaign has lied with its words, it has lied through doctored videos, and now it is lying with a Deep Fake photograph designed to trick voters into thinking that I am best friends with Nancy Pelosi,” Phelan said.

A spokesperson for Phelan said that the Texas House Speaker has never met Pelosi.

Written by RA News staff.


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