Bills to Address AI’s Threats to Elections Clear First Hurdles

Four bills move out of policy committees in state legislature 

SACRAMENTO — Yesterday, four bills to address AI threats to elections passed their first legislative milestones in the California state legislature. Despite facing massive opposition from the technology industry, the package of bills, sponsored by the California Initiative for Technology and Democracy (CITED), moved forward, in several cases with bipartisan support.

“These bills represent the most nuanced and most aggressive attempt in the United States to protect our democracy from digital threats” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, California Common Cause Executive Director. “AI, deepfakes, and disinformation pose a grave threat to our elections and make it much easier for bad actors to deceive voters and undermine faith in our democracy. The first step to address these digital threats is to send this common-sense legislation to the Governor’s desk and in doing so, provide a blueprint for the nation.”

There is broad public support for such legislation. November 2023 polling by Berkeley IGS showed 84% of California voters are concerned about digital threats to elections and 73% think state government has a “responsibility” to take action. That support runs across voters of all races, ages, genders, regions, and political parties.

The legislative package, introduced in March, aims to help regulate the dangers of disinformation turbocharged by AI and social media. The bills move next to the Appropriations Committees of both houses and then their respective house floors. 

  • Provenance, Authenticity, and Watermarking Standards (AB 3211 Wicks): Requires AI companies to embed data in generative AI content and deepfakes so voters can distinguish real content from fake, and requires social media platforms to label AI photos, video, and audio as AI-generated. Passed the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
  • Deepfake Labeling on Social Media (AB 2655, Berman): Requires social media platforms to label election-related deepfakes and in the most egregious cases, ban them close to elections while respecting the First Amendment. Passed out of the Assembly Elections Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
  • Deepfake Free Campaigning Close to Elections (AB 2839, Pellerin): Bans deepfakes that deceive voters about candidates and elections officials in political mailers, robocalls, and TV ads while respecting the First Amendment. Passed out of the Assembly Elections Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
  • “Know Your Customer” Requirement for Online Platforms (SB 1228, Padilla): Requires social media companies to label power users who do not provide basic identity information as “identity unverified,” providing more transparency and curbing influence of anonymous “trolls.” Passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

CITED is a coalition of experts spanning campaigns, cybersecurity, government, policy, law, and technology. The groundbreaking group launched in 2023 by California Common Cause with the goal of providing Sacramento with independent, nonpartisan policy leadership on emerging digital threats to democracy.

CITED has already provided statewide leadership in California, with opinion pieces in The Los Angeles Times and Calmatters, and quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle and KQED.The group is focused on how to protect voters, regardless of background or political leanings, and to protect the integrity of our elections. The package of bills in the California legislature, if passed, can be leveraged as proven reforms in other states, and nationally in Congress.  


To learn more about CITED, click here.