Wicker, Cantwell Introduce Forensic Research and Standards Legislation

September 15, 2020

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Forensic Science Research and Standards Act of 2020. The legislation would ensure that forensic analyses used in criminal investigations are founded on rigorous science and yield evidence that judges, prosecutors, defendants, and juries can trust. It would also encourage the development of forensics standards for identifying artificial digital content, known as “deepfakes.”

“As artificial intelligence technologies continue to improve and the use of manipulated imagery increases, we need a reliable system to detect deepfakes and authenticate digital content,” said Wicker. “We should use every tool available to ensure that we use sound science. Our legislation would help accomplish this goal by establishing an interagency working group on forensic science and creating standards to validate and assess the authenticity of digital content. I thank Ranking Member Cantwell and my colleagues in the House for their commitment to this important measure.”

“Forensic investigations rooted in science and utilizing cutting edge technology will keep our communities safe and avoid wrongful convictions,” said Cantwell. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation with Chairman Wicker to increase the use of science in the criminal justice system.”

Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

The Forensic Science Research and Standards Act would:

  • Establish the Interagency Working Group on Forensic Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). This section would also direct the Working Group to develop a federal research strategy for forensic science. It would also require rigorous consultation among practitioners, including forensic science working groups within the Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice, the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), statisticians, criminal justice stakeholders, and other research scientists.
  • Authorize the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which would include both a Forensic Science and Standards Board and scientific area committees. This would promote the collaboration needed to develop sound forensics science standards. Through this section, the OSAC would be tasked with furthering the development of standards regarding the validation and authentication of digital content, such as deepfakes.

Click here to read the bill.