(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Legislation proposed by Attorney General Dave Yost and introduced this week in the Ohio Senate seeks to protect children from ill-intentioned users of artificial intelligence.
Senate Bill 217, sponsored by Sens. Louis Blessing and Terry Johnson, targets the spread of AI-generated child pornography, a flagrant misuse of the technology that remains largely unregulated.
“Child pornography has long been outlawed in Ohio, but the unchecked rise of AI has created a gray area for predators to fuel their sick fantasies,” Yost said. “We need to act quickly to protect Ohio’s children by expanding existing child pornography laws to cover artificial intelligence.”
The legislation sponsors echoed the Attorney General’s urgency.
“Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool that can unfortunately be used in harmful and obscene ways,” Sen. Blessing said. “This legislation seeks to protect the safety and privacy of all Ohioans, especially our children, from misuse of this new technology.”
Added Sen. Johnson: “Protecting Ohio’s most vulnerable – our children – is more important than ever in a rapidly changing world. This bill creates safeguards for the use of AI, prioritizing the security of all Ohioans in a digital world.”
The measure would:
- Make it a third-degree felony to create or distribute “simulated obscene material,” including depictions of minors. Buying or possessing such materials would be a fourth-degree felony.
- Require content created by AI to include a distinct watermark, ensuring that viewers can distinguish between real and artificial materials. Removal of the watermark could result in civil action from the Attorney General or private citizens.
- Mandate that online platforms and other content hosts take down AI-generated child pornography within 24 hours of being contacted by the Attorney General. A civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day could be levied against those who fail to remove the materials.
- Criminalize the unauthorized use of modified or fabricated versions of a person’s voice or likeness for malicious purposes.
Currently, ill-intentioned users of AI technology can create images of child sex abuse by simply typing a short description of what they want to see. The technology can superimpose the face of one person onto the body of another, creating deepfake images that combine photos of victimized children with photos of otherwise unvictimized children.
In September, Yost and every other state attorney general in the nation urged Congress to act swiftly to address the “new frontier for abuse” created by artificial intelligence.
The full text of Senate Bill 217 is available on the Ohio General Assembly website.