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Work on Regulations for Deep Fakes to Start Immediately, says Ashwini Vaishnaw: Report

Speaking on the matter, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw noted that either existing laws will be amended, or a new one will be introduced to tackle the deepfake menace.

Days after the Prime Minister raised concerns over the rising prevalence of deep fakes online, the Union Minister for IT Ashwini Vaishnaw announced today that work on deep fake regulations would start immediately, Hindustan Times reported.

Vaishnaw added that either existing laws will be amended, or a new law introduced—and that deepfakes created outside India but used within it, will be covered by the laws too. Penalties may be imposed on the person who uploaded or created the deep fake, and the platform itself, with Vaishnaw adding that accountability may be placed on both users and host platforms.

The announcement comes after Vaishnaw’s recent meeting with representatives from large social media companies, industry body NASSCOM, and academics specialised in artificial intelligence. The conversations focused on detecting deep fakes, preventing them from spreading, improving reporting mechanisms, and generating public awareness of them. Vaishnaw said that “actionable items” on these four policy planks will be developed in the next 10 days, with a follow-up meeting scheduled for early December. Meeting attendees reportedly understood the government’s interest in heavier regulation of deepfakes, and social media companies have also committed to taking internal steps to address the issue.

The Ministry may also hold a public consultation on the matter, Economic Times reporters tweeted.

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What has the government said so far on regulating deep fakes?: Both Vaishnaw, and the Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, have recently claimed that platforms failing to take down reported deep fakes will lose their safe harbour protections under Indian law. Safe harbour protections protect platforms from being held liable for third-party content, provided they comply with prevailing Indian rules and regulations. Under India’s platform regulation laws, the IT Rules, 2021, platforms have to take down flagged prohibited content, or risk losing their safe harbour protections. This includes content that invades bodily privacy, intentionally communicates misinformation, and impersonates another person.

In a recent Times of India op-ed, members of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council also recommended a “multi-pronged” regulatory approach to combating deep fakes. This includes:

  • Developing a “combination of advanced detection algorithms” to detect and prevent deep fakes, and data sets to train them with;
  • Technology companies and government agencies collaborating to improve deep fake detection;
  • Developing a regulatory framework on the misuse of deep fakes. This includes a recommendation that companies using General Adversarial Networks (GAN) and “other deep fake applications” register and disclose them to an oversight body, that will check for their ethical use on various transparency parameters;
  • Public awareness campaigns on the dangers of deepfakes.

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