Sen. Cruz: Federal Fix Needed for Victims of Revenge and Deepfake Pornography

June 26, 2024

In opening remarks at Commerce field hearing, Cruz discusses bipartisan, first-of-its-kind TAKE IT DOWN Act

DALLAS, TX –In his opening statement at today’s field hearing titled “Take It Down: Ending Big Tech’s Complicity In Revenge Porn,” Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) highlighted the need for a federal solution to address the scourge of revenge and AI-generated deepfake pornography.

Sen. Cruz explained how his new bipartisan bill, the Tools to Address Known Exploitation by Immobilizing Technological Deepfakes on Websites and Networks, AKA the TAKE IT DOWN Act, would both criminalize the publication of non-consensual, sexually exploitative images, including AI-generated deepfake pornography, and require a notice and takedown process for social media sites when such images are shared. Deviants who create and share deepfake revenge porn do not currently face federal jail time, nor are social media platforms legally required to find and remove relevant images and videos.

Read more about this legislation:

The TAKE IT DOWN Act is supported by over 40 organizations. To read statements of support, click HERE

To read the bill text, click HERE.

For a one-page summary of the TAKE IT DOWN Act, click HERE.

Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“If you are a victim of revenge or AI-generated explicit imagery in the Internet age, your life changes – permanently. You most likely are a woman or a young girl. You most likely have been targeted by someone you know. And, if you are not a celebrity, you most likely are still struggling to have the images of you removed from the Internet.

“The scourge of so-called ‘revenge pornography’ is not new – it has been with us for decades. However, new generative AI tools have made creating realistic, yet fake, explicit images and videos of real people easier than ever. Due to advances in technology, now anyone can be a victim.

“And it’s increasingly affecting a particularly vulnerable population: teenage girls. High schools across the country are seeing an explosion of AI-generated, sexually exploitative images of female students. These images are often created and spread by male classmates.

“We’ve seen almost identical cases in:

“New Jersey, where male classmates created and shared fake, sexually explicit images of their underage female classmates;

“Illinois, where boys altered dozens of their female classmate's prom photos to create fake nude images of her;

“Washington, where a boy at a dance used AI to virtually strip his female classmates’ dance dresses off;

“California, where three separate schools around Los Angeles (Beverly Hills, Calabasas, and Laguana Beach) have had recent incidents of students using AI to create inappropriate, sexually explicit images of their classmates;

“Florida, where middle school boys created sexually explicit images of their 12- and 13-year-old classmates; and

“Here in Texas, where a boy targeted a group of friends and shared realistic, but fake sexually explicit images of them.

“In each case, this cruel filth was then sent around to classmates, exploiting and embarrassing the victims. I suspect there are many more instances that are never reported to law enforcement or make the nightly news.

“State lawmakers across the country have been taking action, including here in Texas, but the online nature of these would-be crimes demands a federal solution to provide peace of mind to all victims.

“That’s why, earlier this month, I was proud to join with Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, to lead a bipartisan group of 14 senators – seven Republicans and seven Democrats – to introduce the “TAKE IT DOWN Act.”

“Joining me last week in introducing this crucial legislation were Senators Amy Klobuchar, Shelley Moore Capito, Richard Blumenthal, Jacky Rosen, Cynthia Lummis, Ted Budd, Laphonza Butler, Todd Young, Joe Manchin, Bill Cassidy, John Hickenlooper, Martin Heinrich, and John Barrasso.

“Our bill has garnered support from over 40 organizations across the political spectrum, including both left- and right-leaning advocacy groups, unions, law enforcement, and industry. As the support for this bill plainly indicates: This is not a partisan issue, and it is imperative that Congress act quickly.

“The TAKE IT DOWN Act will make it a federal crime — with jail time — to publish online non-consensual, sexually explicit images of another person, with heightened penalties if the victim is a minor. 

“This applies even if the image is AI-generated and in cases where the original image was created consensually, but the depicted individual did not consent to its publication. It also makes it a crime to threaten to publish these images online, thereby covering the associated problem of sextortion.

“In addition, the TAKE IT DOWN Act is the first of its kind to incorporate a ‘notice and takedown’ requirement for social media and other websites that allow users to post these images. This means that TikTok, Twitter, or Instagram will have to have processes in place to receive and act immediately on complaints from victims.

“Notice and takedown is a critical remedy for victims who want their images removed so that they do not spread further, especially in cases where the victim may not even know who initially posted the images.

“As the Supreme Court stated in a 2014 case concerning restitution for possession of child pornography, ‘every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse.’

“This is no less the reality for victims of non-consensual, so-called ‘revenge pornography’ and victims of realistic, but fake, computer-generated sexually explicit images.

“While many social media companies purport to have a zero-tolerance policy for posting non-consensual sexual content, in practice, it can be very difficult for victims to file reports to have the images removed.

“THE TAKE IT DOWN Act ensures that social media prioritizes reports from victims and, if they do not comply, empowers the Federal Trade Commission to pursue enforcement action.

“The TAKE IT DOWN Act has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, where I sit as the Ranking Member. It is one of my top priorities that this bill is on the next committee markup so that it can receive Senate floor consideration as soon as possible.”