07-22-2024  10:32 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather

Washington Secretary of State
Published: 24 January 2024

OLYMPIA —After news reports that registered voters in New Hampshire have received fake phone calls simulating President Joe Biden speaking negatively about the presidential primary, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs warned Washington voters that deepfakes are an ongoing threat to elections and the voting public. 

In a recording posted by NBC News, the faked Biden voice implores voters to “save your vote for the November election” rather than participating in Tuesday’s state presidential primary.

Washington state legislation requested, and supported by Hobbs, in 2023 prohibited deepfake advertising by political campaigns within Washington and empowered candidates targeted by faked statements to sue for damages.

“We have several high-interest elections this year, which creates a target-rich environment for these bad actors to subject voters to deepfakes and other misinformation,” Hobbs said. “I am grateful that the legislature supported my bill to get ahead of this situation, and helped us enact a law that every state ought to emulate. 

“The disturbing situation we’ve seen in New Hampshire’s campaign is just the tip of the iceberg for 2024,” Hobbs continued. “These false messages will get more polished and harder to tell from real ones. Voters must remain vigilant and skeptical, and turn to trusted information sources to verify things that just don’t seem right.”

Washington’s Presidential Primary will be held March 12. Statewide offices will be on the ballot in the August 6 Primary, and decisions on the presidency and state offices will go before voters in the November 5 general election ballot. Washington’s deepfakes law, found in RCW 42.62 and created by Hobbs’ requested Senate Bill 5152 in 2023, was one of America’s first restrictions on the use of synthetic media in political campaigning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under it, political campaigns must disclose when using falsely generated or manipulated video, images or audio. A failure to disclose creates a potential civil liability.

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