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AI-generated child pornography is circulating. This California prosecutor wants to make it illegal.

Security guards stand outside at Beverly Vista Middle School on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Beverly Hills, California.    (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
By Anabel Sosa Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After several reports of artificial intelligence-generated child pornography surfaced in California, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Erik Nasarenko advocated for a change to state law to protect children who are increasingly vulnerable to this misuse of technology.

Last December, Nasarenko received his first tip regarding a person who had artificially created photos depicting an underaged girl performing sex acts with an adult man.

“When it came to my attention, I said let’s file [charges],” Nasarenko told The Times. But, because of current loopholes in California law, he learned that he couldn’t press charges in cases where the photos of children are AI-generated.

Last year, the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said it had received 4,700 reports of AI-generated photos that depict child sexual exploitation. Los Angeles middle and high schools have gone as far as to expel students for creating AI-generated sexually inappropriate images of their peers. In the last five months, Nasarenko’s office has received six tips related to photos depicting minors engaging in sexual acts.

As reports of AI-generated child pornography are rising, California lawmakers and prosecutors say the state must take action to protect children and hold suspects accountable.

Assembly Bill 1831, by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and co-sponsored by Nasarenko, would ensure that A.I.-generated sexually explicit images of children are illegal to possess, distribute, and create. The bill would also apply to photos that depict highly realistic images of children but are not real. The bill is also co-sponsored by SAG-AFTRA and the California District Attorney’s Assn.

“With the rapid advancement of AI, this technology has been used to create highly realistic images of child sexual abuse which can be virtually indistinguishable from a real child,” Berman said during testimony in the Assembly Public Safety Committee this week. Teenagers could also be charged in a juvenile court under this bill.

Kaylin Hayman, who between the ages of 10 and 14 was a series regular on a Disney Channel television show, testified on Tuesday that her face from that time was superimposed on an adult body participating in sex acts.

“I felt violated and disgusted to think about the fact that grown men had seen me in such a horrendous manner,” said Hayman, a 16-year-old survivor and victim advocate from Ventura County. “While speaking about this topic is daunting, I know deep down I need to share my voice. I need to bring awareness and justice to those in my position.”

The creator of the images was convicted in federal court. But Nasarenko argued that California does not have a companion statute that would have allowed him to prosecute locally.

The bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee with bipartisan support and is now headed to the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.