Idaho Passes New Bill Seeking Death Penalty for Sexual Acts With Children Under 12

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
February 18, 2024Politics
Idaho Passes New Bill Seeking Death Penalty for Sexual Acts With Children Under 12
The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise, Idaho, in a file photo. (Carlos A Torres/Shutterstock)

Idaho has passed a new bill that seeks capital punishment for child sex predators. The bill, known as HB 515, would carry out the death penalty for any conviction relating to sexual acts with children younger than 12 years old.

Simultaneously, another bill, HB465, which would allow prosecutors to charge producers of child pornography using artificial intelligence (AI) with sexual exploitation, was passed alongside it.

Currently, those who carry out “lewd conduct with a minor” below the age of 16 in the state, face a life sentence. HB515 seeks to amend the current statute to include the death penalty for those who engage in sexual acts with children under the age of 12, in addition to especially cruel and heinous acts with exceptional depravity.

The law would put Idaho on par with Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill into law that applies the death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children under the age of 12.

Idaho Republican state Rep. Bruce Skaug, one of the coauthors of the bills, said that a 2008 Supreme Court decision, which declared that the death penalty for child rape with a surviving victim was unconstitutional, was wrong in his view, Fox News reported.

HB 465 widens the scope of Idaho’s existing laws, by which the creation and distribution of child pornography are outlawed, to include AI-generated video imagery and depictions of children.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Republican state Rep. Dori Healey, said the technology has been applied worldwide to recreate videos and images of children that appear realistic.

“This technology is being used to create thousands of images of children across the world and in Idaho,” Ms. Healey said during the vote.

A current federal law prohibits hyper-realistic sexualized images of children. However, there appear to be many grey areas where it does not specify AI-depicted children with no real child present, prompting many calls to create more specific laws.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2023, demanding answers on how the DOJ is tackling the growing online threat of AI-generated child pornography.

“We write to you with grave concern regarding increasing reports of artificial intelligence (AI) being used to generate child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) which are shared across the internet,” the letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland stated.

The letter noted that while there are benefits to appropriate use of AI, necessary action needs to be taken to prevent individuals from using AI to generate CSAM.

Also mentioned in the letter was a report by the MIT Technology Review from October 2020 exposing the emergence of a disturbing new app used at the time to digitally “undress” images of women, predominantly young girls, around a year after a previous app called “DeepNude” was taken down.

According to the review, the software worked by using generative adversarial networks, the algorithm behind deepfakes, to create realistic nude bodies in place of women’s clothes.

Prosecutors across all 50 states have taken steps to address the issue with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, calling for more regulation on AI-generated child porn, and the threat it poses.

“We are engaged in a race against time to protect the children of our country from the dangers of AI. Indeed, the proverbial walls of the city have already been breached. Now is the time to act,” the prosecutors wrote in a letter.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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