Radio Interview – ABC NSW Drive

Subjects: Introduction of legislation to ban deepfakes material; Violence against women; AI-generated election fraud

LINDSAY McDOUGALL: We had this horrible news out of Bacchus Marsh Grammar School in Victoria today, where a teenager has been arrested for circulating fake nude images of about 50 female students online. Unfortunately, cases like this are becoming all too common with the advent of AI, and as the technology develops, we can likely expect that this type of abhorrent behaviour will become even easier. So, in an effort to stop this kind of thing, the Federal Government will introduce laws banning the sharing of deepfake pornography and imposing a six-year prison term. The Federal Attorney-General is Mark Dreyfus and he is with me now. Mark, thank you for being with us. Give us the details of this legislation.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Lindsay, digitally created and altered sexually explicit material that’s shared without consent is a damaging and deeply distressing form of abuse. Overwhelmingly, it’s women and girls who are the target of this offensive and degrading behaviour. I’ve introduced legislation last week in the Parliament to make sure that those who share digitally created, sexually explicit material without consent will be subject to serious criminal penalties of up to seven years imprisonment.

McDOUGALL: Tell me about the impacts of sharing this material. What is it doing to people? What impacts is it having on people’s lives?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think that anyone who has been the target of this kind of offensive and degrading behaviour is finding it deeply upsetting. We’ve had multiple cases reported, and people have started to speak about this publicly. You’ve only got to imagine what it must feel like to see your image used in this way.

McDOUGALL: Especially if these are non-consensual, and images that did not exist before AI. Does it also lead to extortion and other crimes like that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It’s an offensive conduct in itself to, without someone’s consent, put up a sexually explicit, digitally altered image, often portraying them in a shocking way. And that’s why we are criminalising this behaviour. We’re filling a gap in the Commonwealth’s Criminal Code here.

McDOUGALL: It’s definitely a hot topic. And without going into the actual story itself, we know the story emerging from Bacchus Marsh Grammar in Victoria. How big of an issue is deepfake pornography in Australia at the moment?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It’s clearly a growing concern. Sextortion is also a growing concern, but a somewhat different activity. This is criminalising, this legislation that I’ve introduced last week, is criminalising the sharing of sexually explicit deepfakes and the fact that people are talking about it, the fact that many people in the community have been affected by it is what has prompted our government to take action.

McDOUGALL: That’s interesting that you mentioned sharing in addition to creating itself.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes, there’s a limit to the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction here. States can criminalise creation. What we are doing is criminalising the sharing of images. And we’ve got an aggravated offence which will apply where the person who is sharing the deepfake also created it. That carries a higher penalty.

McDOUGALL: We heard from the Federal Police Commissioner just recently, Reece Kershaw said that he believed a tsunami of AI generated abuse material is coming. How challenging is this for law enforcement? Do we have to continue making laws to catch up with technology?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We do. Artificial intelligence has come upon us like a tsunami in the last two years. We’ve seen right across almost every aspect of life, the possibility of artificial intelligence. It’s got real capacity to be used for good, but it’s also got tremendous capacity to be used for bad. And this is an example of artificial intelligence, digital technology, being used for a truly appalling purpose.

McDOUGALL: And this technology is increasingly hard to detect. Men have been – and it is mostly men who have been doing damaging, dumb stuff against women, pretty much as long as people who draw or paint or take photos, stick people’s heads on photos that sort of thing. The technology is getting trickier but at the heart of it, isn’t it, is the lack of respect for women?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Of course. We think that keeping women and children safe should be a major objective of government. To go straight to it, violence against women and children has a devastating impact. I’ve talked, the Prime Minister has talked, about a crisis of male violence in Australia. This criminalisation here of digitally created sexually explicit material is an aspect of that. But we’ve got so many other pieces of work that are in train. We’ve already done a lot and we’ve got a lot more to do.

McDOUGALL: This is coming out of the National Cabinet meeting back in May. The goal of ending violence against women within a generation, this is part of a group of moves. How will these laws complement other measures that the Government’s taking?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I can talk about things we’ve already done. The most significant reforms to the Family Law Act in decades commenced on the sixth of May and their intent is to make the family law system simpler and safer for families and children. I’m consulting now on a second stage of family law reform that will, for the first time, propose that family violence can be considered as an important factor in property disputes. I’m the Chair of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General, I’m the Chair of the Police Ministers Council and both those bodies were tasked by the National Cabinet meeting, which you mentioned just a moment ago, to look at a range of matters including police responses to family violence and information sharing in the family violence area.

McDOUGALL: Yes, that includes making sure training is appropriate for first responders, including police, in these cases?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And what I’ve what I’ve heard from Police Ministers and Commissioners from around Australia is that some states have done a lot more work in this area than others, and the states that haven’t feel that they can learn from the states that have made reform.

McDOUGALL: Speaking to the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. One more question on artificial intelligence, this one to do with elections, to do with democracy. During the Select Committee on Adopting Artificial Intelligence the Commissioner of the AEC Tom Rogers said Australia will not be immune to AI-generated misinformation. Do we need to be doing more to legislate against AI used for nefarious purposes?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That’s something that the Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, as you say, is thinking very deeply about, something that my colleague, the Special Minister of State Senator Don Farrell is working on in the run up to the next election. But clearly there are risks here. We’ve seen, just this year, the use of a deep fake recording of President Biden being used in Democratic primary elections, which was not him, but made to sound like him. We’ve seen in the Pakistan elections the use of a completely AI-generated speech by Imran Khan. As I said before, you can have AI that’s used for good. Imran Khan was gaoled and his party used artificial intelligence to create a speech that was used in the recent Pakistan election with his approval. And the technology is extraordinary technology. We can all see its capacity for good and we can equally see its capacity for bad. I am very concerned, and everybody participating in federal politics ought to be concerned, about the potential for malign use of artificial intelligence to create material that is completely fake. And obviously, if it’s completely fake, it’s a fraud. It’s going to be against the law. But what we’ve got to do is try and find a way to stop it.

McDOUGALL: This legislation introduced last week targeting the use of generative AI to create non-consensual deepfake porn has been introduced in Parliament. Do you see any issues with it getting through?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’m expecting it’s going to be supported by the whole Parliament.

McDOUGALL: Thank you for being at ABC Radio.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you, Lindsay.

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