Legislature approves cyber terror, deepfake bill

The legislation targets deepfakes and stiffens penalties for revenge porn and other sex-related crimes.

A bill that would beef up Florida’s criminal penalties for stealing an individual’s sexually explicit pictures and other sexual image-related crimes has been approved by Florida lawmakers.

SB 1798, which passed the Senate unanimously last week, passed the House 117-0 Tuesday. The legislation is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Lauren Book and Republican Rep. Joe Harding.

The legislation received no opposition at any stage, clearing all of its committee stops without a single dissenting vote.

The legislation targets deepfakes, which are manipulated images or videos that make it look as if a person said or did something that they did not. The measure also stiffens penalties for revenge porn and other sex-related crimes. The bill:

— Prohibits someone from knowingly, willfully and maliciously disseminating deepfake sexually explicit images without the victim’s consent, making it a third-degree felony.

— Establishes new standards for Florida’s “revenge porn” statute by criminalizing the theft of sexually explicit images off another person’s phone or digital device with the intent to distribute or benefit from them in some way.

— Increases existing civil damages where victims will now be entitled to seek up to $10,000 against an individual who has willfully and knowingly chosen to inflict this kind of intimate terror.

— Prohibits deepfakes of identifiable minors engaging in sex acts.

— Stiffens penalties for possession of an obscene child-like sex doll to a third-degree felony on any offense.

Harding said the bill was created because of issues they have seen, not at the request of any lobbying groups.

“There is a special kind of evil in the world. The kind of evil that believes it’s OK to ruin someone’s life by sharing an explicit image or video that they did not have permission to share or, even worse, to steal that image and share it to do harm or for monetary gain,” Harding said.

Book was in the House chamber close to Harding when it passed.

During a committee meeting in January, Book said she was victimized last year when intimate images were stolen from her and other sexually explicit deepfake images of Book were created. Book also is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

She said the legislation is meant to allow people who carry out those crimes to get the penalties they deserve, and protect people across the state from being targeted like she was. 

“I am not alone. This is happening to people across the state of Florida and all over the world, every single day. Teachers. Social workers. Nurses. Moms. Teenagers,” Book said. “Images are being stolen from digital devices. Deepfakes are growing exponentially online.”

Before the vote, Harding applauded Book’s bravery in coming forward about what happened to her.

“By sharing her story, which was tough to do, we were able to work together to create policy like this,” Harding said. 

The bill is now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood


  • NoToDeSantis

    March 9, 2022 at 3:09 am

    Did the author of this article read the final version of the bill? It doesn’t (for some reason) increase the penalties for possessing a sex-doll on first offense, that was in the House version, but not the Senate version. It does allow an officer to arrest someone for possession of such a doll without a warrant (generally not the case for misdemeanors).

    It also makes possession of images depicting humans and animals having sex illegal, which was a late filed amendment.

  • NoToDeSantis

    March 9, 2022 at 3:10 am

    Did the author not read the bill? You are reading the house version, not the Senate’s.

Comments are closed.


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