MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would enhance penalties for those who use artificial intelligence (AI) to produce child pornography.

House Bill 168 (HB168), sponsored by Representative Matt Woods (R-Jasper), passed the House unanimously on Thursday. The bill would add penalties for those who create or distribute a "virtually indistinguishable depiction" of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The bill defines a "virtually indistinguishable depiction" as a "visual depiction created, altered, or produced by digital, computer generated, or other means that a reasonable person would conclude is of an actual individual under 18 years of age."

"The purpose of this bill is to amend our state laws to treat AI-generated child pornography or child sexual abuse material the same way we treat actual child pornography," Woods said. "In other words, if you produce, possess, or distribute or pander child pornography, the state will no longer need to establish whether actual children are involved. This bill also raises the age covered in the state from age 16 to age 17 and enables parties who wish to bring civil action or punitive damages to do so."

Distribution and possession with intent to distribute images of sexually explicit conduct are Class B Felonies; mere possession is a Class C Felony. Production or distribution of such images that are related to child sexual abuse is a Class A Felony.

The bill passed the House with no debate on its merits, just commendation from House members.

State Rep. A.J McCampbell (D-Demopolis) detailed an event in his district as a warning to those who may attempt to violate the bill's provisions as a joke.  

"In my area, a couple of young boys decided that they were going to take the head of one of their classmates and place it on an adult nude body that they found online," McCampbell said. "So. I'm trying to help these young people understand right now that's not funny. That's nothing to play with because right now we're getting ready to pass a bill that will say to these young people, you are going to now mess up your life."

The bill passed unanimously, 101-0. It will now go to the Senate for deliberation.

Attorney General Steve Marshall, who brought the bill forward, praised its passage in the House.

"The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence demands that we examine our criminal laws on child exploitation to ensure that prosecutions are not lagging behind what perpetrators are capable of doing," Marshall said. "With this legislation, Alabama will be on the cutting edge of thwarting the proliferation of child sex abuse material, no matter how it is produced. I applaud Speaker Ledbetter for prioritizing this important bill and for Representative Matt Wood's leadership on the issue."

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