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Sunday, May 26, 2024

India directs social-media companies to act against ‘deepfakes’

New Delhi issues second advisory in six months after morphed clip of a popular actress caused nationwide outrage

New Delhi has directed social media companies to take “decisive action” against ‘deepfakes’ – false online images created using artificial intelligence – and to remove them within 36 hours of first receiving a report of suspected deepfake content.

This latest advisory, issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), also warned the platforms could lose ‘safe harbor immunity’ and be liable to criminal and judicial proceedings if they don’t act swiftly.

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The advisory, according to the government statement, asked social-media intermediaries to ensure that “due diligence is exercised and reasonable efforts are made to identify misinformation and deepfakes.”

It is a legal obligation for online platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation by any user under the Information Technology (IT) rules, 2021,” India’s Union Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, adding that they are further “mandated” to remove such content upon receiving a report about it and on confirming that the reported suspect item is, indeed, a deepfake creation.

It’s the second advisory within the last six months issued by MEITY, Chandrasekhar noted. India’s IT rules state that users are prohibited from creating, uploading, or sharing content that threatens “the unity of India or public order, is pornographic, violates copyright or patent, or contains software virus.”

The ministry’s outreach comes in the wake of national outrage caused by a deepfake of popular Indian actress Rashmika Mandanna that went viral on social media earlier this week. The actress’ face was morphed into that of British-Indian social media influencer Zara Patel, who’d posted the original video last month.

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Mandanna took to social media and said such an incident was scary “not only for me, but also for each one of us who today is vulnerable to so much harm because of how technology is being misused.” She also thanked other celebrities, including Bollywood superstar actor Amitabh Bachchan, who expressed words of support and called for action to be taken.

Patel, whose personal video was misused, wrote on Instagram that she had “no involvement” and was “deeply disturbed and upset” over the incident.

The doctored video was initially flagged by Abhishek Kumar, a journalist at the fact-checking publication Alt News, who first suggested that the viral video allegedly showing Mandanna was a deepfake.

The IT Ministry is investigating the case, India Today reported on Tuesday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. Reacting to the incident earlier, Chandrasekhar wrote on X that deepfakes are “the latest and even more dangerous and damaging form of misinformation and need to be dealt with by [online] platforms.” In February the ministry issued advisories to the chief compliance officers of various social-media platforms after it received reports regarding the potential use of AI-generated deepfakes that were apparently “manipulating people.”