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NY Budget Includes Potential Political “AI” Liability for Stations


As we reported last week, we have been working with the Assembly and Senate on proposed political “AI” legislation.  This legislation was supposed to be considered outside of the NY Budget Process. That changed last Wednesday night as a political AI bill was dropped into the Governor’s budget process.  


We activated “grassroots” on Thursday morning asking them to contact key staff in the Senate, Assembly, and the Governor’s office. Despite our grassroots efforts last week, the legislation passed over the weekend. The legislation requires:


  1. Stations may be liable for the distribution of materially deceptive “AI.”

  2. Liability attaches if a station knew or should have known the content contained politically materially deceptive “AI.”

  3. Materially deceptive “AI” includes creating an event that did not occur or altering an event in a significant way using computer-generated or technical means.

  4. To avoid liability, stations need a disclosure stating: “This (image, video, or audio) has been manipulated.” Disclosure would be visual for video, and read aloud for audio.

  5. There is an exemption for bona fide news reports, provided they contain the disclosure mentioned above.

  6. Establishes a good faith requirement to establish the material is not materially deceptive.

  7. Candidates are empowered to bring a lawsuit and obtain injunctive relief, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

Our position is simple, liability should rest with the creator of the political content, not the broadcaster or any entity that distributes the content.  The bill became effective upon signing.  As a result, we will be sending out a notice to stations suggesting that:


  1. Stations obtain a letter in writing from any political content provider (advertising or other content) stating that “This advertisement does not contain any materially deceptive “AI.”  This would also apply to content used in entertainment and newscasts. We are drafting a form that you can use.

  2. If you cannot obtain a letter, we suggest you attach the disclosure “This (image, video, or audio) has been manipulated,” to any political content.

Under the law, a candidate can sue a station for running political content that contains materially deceptive AI. This includes running "deceptive" political material in a newscast. The law only exempts news when the station has broadcast the disclosure, which of course is no exemption at all. Stations have no way of knowing if the content they receive from third parties contains deceptive AI.


Another concern is that liability could attach even if the political image was essentially correct but manipulated in some matter. The legislation may impose liability if an image or voice is altered in a significant way by a computer or technological means. All content is stored and displayed using computers. Any changes in color or selecting parts of a speech could be considered deceptive manipulation. The recent experience with the Royal Family’s portrait is a case in point. Note, the law not only applies to broadcasting but to all forms of distribution including station websites and social media platforms. While there are other exemptions for satire or entertainment, the fundamental question remains. A station will not know if the content being provided contains deceptive AI images.


Political advertising also raises litigation risks and conflicts. Under federal law, stations cannot edit a political advertisement received from the federal candidate’s campaign committee. This includes adding a label or disclosure. Moreover, a station cannot refuse to air the ad from a federal candidate’s campaign committee. You must broadcast the ad as you receive it. This sets up a direct conflict between federal and state law with respect to political advertisements received directly from a federal candidate's campaign committee.


A station can edit federal political ads, including those promoting a particular candidate or issues that you receive from a third party such as a PAC, citizens group, or political party. Thus, the no-edit rule applies only to campaign ads received directly from the federal candidate’s campaign committee.


The same general rule applies to state and local candidates. You are not allowed to edit political advertisements from a candidate’s authorized campaign committee. You can edit political ads from third parties, such as PACs or state committees. For third-party political ads, you can include the disclosure, “This (image, video, or audio) has been manipulated."

 

This law became effective when the Governor signed the bill. Thus it would apply to any political content broadcast after April 20th.  We will be sending out notices directly to stations along with a release form they can use with political content providers.  


We want to thank all of the stations that contacted the NY legislative leadership last week. While the legislation was not changed, we have received some assurances that the language may be changed. So, your efforts will not be in vain. We already have meetings set up for this week. So, stay tuned. 


You can see the text of the legislation here.

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