North Texas mom shares 'deepfake' horror story as lawmakers look to close loophole

State lawmakers are trying to stay ahead of child predators and cyberbullies who use artificial intelligence.

That means closing loopholes in state law where deepfake profiles and manipulated photos are a big problem.

"This issue is very, very close to my heart and I will try to hold it together," said Anna McAdams.

The North Texas mother gave emotional testimony to the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on Thursday. 

Her daughter, a 14-year-old student at Aledo High School, was targeted by a cyberbully last year.


"We woke up to her phone blowing up, warning her that nude pictures of her were being distributed to the high school," said McAdams.

The North Texas mother told the committee that a fellow student took innocent photos of her daughter and seven other classmates and used computer software to create fake naked images of the girls.

"The kid who did this was 15. He used Snapchat to send out the pictures," McAdams testified.

Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice is tasked with creating tougher state laws to prosecute cyber crimes, which are growing in large part due to ever-evolving artificial intelligence.

"The problem is I think we have some constitutional limitations that say we have to pin it with a real child and that's extremely difficult for law enforcement to do especially with their current abilities," said Lori Varnell with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.

The director of law enforcement for the state attorney general's office told lawmakers there are websites that allow users to create "deepfake" profiles.

"You can actually have it generate for you a person that does not exist," said Brent Dupre. "Now imagine that power compounded by someone who really wants to do bad things with it to our children."


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Dupre is concerned about the possibilities as minors befriend strangers in online chat rooms and on social media.

"Imagine a child getting a photograph of themselves, originally a benign photo, where a bad actor has stripped the clothes off of them, has sent that to them and said, if you don't send me money, if you don't perform sexual acts, or you don't actually produce real content for me then I'm going to spread these around your school," he said.

Currently, it is a crime under state law to produce deepfake videos, but not deepfake photos.

Lawmakers asked the panelists to send them suggested recommendations to help the state legislature strengthen state law.