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Reports on Wyoming State Government Activity

Lawmakers mull reintroduction of a bill that would tackle digital deepfakes

An ATM at a grocery store.
Chris Clements
Wyoming Public Media
A bitcoin ATM at a grocery store in Laramie on May 22. The Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology met in Jackson this week and discussed fallout from a Chinese bitcoin mine closure, as well as a bill that would outlaw deepfakes online.

The Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology heard arguments for and against sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to produce and distribute digitally altered media, known as deepfakes, in Wyoming.

A similar bill died last session in committee due to fears that it could limit freedom of expression.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) chairs the committee. He said a key question behind the measure is if Wyomingites have the right to know if something online is true.

“Right now, you have no such right,” said Rothfuss. “Everyone has the right to lie to you pretty dramatically. [But] there might be exceptions to that when you get to libel and slander.”

Some lawmakers on the committee wondered if the law was truly necessary given existing protections in statute that cover libel and slander.

The bill, as drafted, contains an exception that allows for the creation of digitally altered media if it contains a disclaimer identifying itself as such.

“There are plenty of ways that you can be openly lied to and misled, to shape your belief system, to shape your politics, to shape your actions and opinions of individuals,” Rothfuss added.

He said some companies have been resistant to the bill because they don’t want to be held financially liable for the spread of any misinformation.

The committee didn’t make concrete decisions about sponsorship, but will revisit discussion of the legislation at their next meeting. It will be held July 1 in Sheridan.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

Chris Clements is a state government reporter and digital media specialist for Wyoming Public Media based in Laramie. He came to WPM from KSJD Radio in Cortez, Colorado, where he reported on Indigenous affairs, drought, and local politics in the Four Corners region. Before that, he graduated with a degree in English (Creative Writing) from Arizona State University. Chris's news stories have been featured on KUNC, NPR newscasts, and National Native News, among others.
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