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NH legislators take action on AI

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We have yet to fight time-traveling terminators, but artificial intelligence is still taking over. Chatbots are replacing customer service operators, generative AI is overtaking human stock photos, and students are letting ChatGPT do their homework. Until the federal government takes action, it’s up to state legislators to draw the line. Now the New Hampshire House and Senate are working on five bills that define the legal and illegal use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Adding AI to existing sex offenses

First, the House and Senate have both passed bills that add “synthetic images” to existing laws about illegal sexual images.

HB 1319 adds photoshopped or AI-generated images to the law against nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, also known as “revenge porn.” The original law, passed in 2016, makes it a felony to share private sexual images of another person without their consent. Less than a decade after that law passed, bad actors no longer need real sexual images of a victim; they can use an app or pay a deepfake creator to put any person’s face into a pornographic video. Supporters of HB 1319 argue the law needs to catch up to that reality.

HB 1319 passed the House with widespread support. The Senate already passed a very similar bill (SB 464), so they are very likely to send HB 1319 to Gov. Sununu’s desk.

The Senate also wants to add photoshopped and AI-generated images to the law against child sexual abuse images, through SB 564. According to a committee report written by Sen. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), “People creating computer-generated child sexual abuse material can avoid the legal system because the depicted children are not ‘actual people’ as defined by the state’s criminal code. Currently, the definitions in RSA 649-A:2 leaves New Hampshire citizens vulnerable. This bill seeks to close the loophole and keep the children of this state safe.”

Interestingly, eight people signed in “against” SB 564, but none testified at the public hearing. Perhaps they would argue that fake images are a safe outlet for pedophiles, or perhaps bill opponents are concerned about how law enforcement would distinguish between fake images of minors and fake images of young-looking adults. Since none testified on the record, we can only speculate.

SB 564 is waiting on a vote from the full House of Representatives.

Regulating AI in other media

The House and Senate are also considering bills that would regulate the use of AI in other media, including political advertisements.

HB 1596 requires political advertisements to disclose if they are using photoshop or AI to create fake media, within 90 days of an election. In particular, the media must include the statement, “This [video, audio, or image] has been manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence technology and depicts speech or conduct that did not occur.”

Opponents of HB 1596 are concerned it infringes on free speech. The bill passed the House on a voice vote, however, which generally indicates broad support. (A voice vote is when the chorus of “ayes” is clearly louder than the “nays.”) The Senate has yet to act on HB 1596.

The House also passed a bill that bans “fraudulent use of deepfakes.” Generally speaking, HB 1432 makes it a felony to use AI to create an image, audio, or visual of a person with the intent to cause harm. The person harmed could also sue for damages.

Ill intent and harm are key to HB 1432. At a recent Senate hearing Rep. Thomas Cormen (D-Lebanon) said, “You can certainly imagine situations where deepfakes can be used for good, you know. The one I joke about is Abe Lincoln talking about preventing forest fires.”

The Senate has yet to vote on HB 1432. In a recent Senate hearing there were some questions about how the bill might interact with existing libel law.

Limiting AI use by the state

Lastly, the House passed HB 1688, a bill that regulates how state agencies use AI. For example, HB 1688 would prohibit the use of AI for real-time biometric identification (think face-scanning in a crowd). The bill also requires a human review if AI is used to make impactful decisions that cannot be undone, such as when operating critical infrastructure. The bill also requires state agencies to inform the public if they are interacting with an AI chatbot.

HB 1688 was written in tandem with HB 1596 and HB 1432, so the definitions of AI and deepfakes align in all three bills. Representatives are urging the Senate to pass the bills as a package. The Senate has yet to act on HB 1688.

What’s next for AI in NH?

Writing on behalf of the House committee that considered HB 1688, Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) pointed out, “This bill imposes no constraints on individuals, private businesses, or local governments.” However, it’s possible that future bills could look at the use of AI in private business. Other states are working on legislation that Granite State legislators might copy. Congress is also considering bills that could add onto any regulations or criminal penalties at the state level.

Some of those bills look to restrict AI in specific industries. For example, an Illinois legislator introduced a bill that would prohibit gambling platforms from collecting user data with the intent to predict individual gambling behavior.

Other states are looking at potential discrimination and want employers to conduct “bias audits” on any AI decision-making tools. For example, Vermont is considering a bill that would require employers to write a one-time impact assessment before using any automated decision system.

States may also want to capitalize on the use of AI for innovation and growth. For example, Maryland created an Industry 4.0 Technology Grant Program that includes grants for manufacturing enterprises looking to implement AI for “continuous improvement of efficiency and productivity.”

Lastly, some New Hampshire legislators are interested in the right to use AI in self-defense. Rep. Matthew John Santonastaso (R-Rindge) sponsored a 2024 bill on that topic, HB 1599. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee decided there were too many questions about culpability and unintended consequences to move the bill forward this year.

If you have an opinion on any of the bills mentioned in this article – or an idea for a new one – reach out to your state legislator. You can find who represents you on our Elected Officials page. Not sure how to share your opinion or what to say? Check out our Advocacy Toolkit.


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