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Report: IT Ministry May Bring Amendments to IT Rules, 2021, to Regulate AI, Deep Fakes

The new provisions may mandate that platforms train their AI language models or algorithms to be bias-free, with parameters for bias including caste, community, national security, and religion, The Economic Times reported.

Update, 9/1/2024 at 11:38 pm: The Indian government has been granted an additional two weeks to file its responses in a separate ongoing Delhi High Court plea requesting the Indian government to bring regulations on artificial intelligence and deep fakes, India Today recently reported. The High Court had earlier asked the Indian government to clarify its stance on the concerns surrounding these technologies. Government counsels informed the Court that the matter is being actively considered by the Centre. The case will be heard next on February 18th. Read our interview with the petitioner, lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla, to understand more about his concerns over the rise of unregulated deep fakes in India.

Original story, 4/1/2024 at 1:50 pm: The Indian government may soon introduce amendments to its platform governance laws to regulate generative artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial intelligence companies, The Economic Times reported today, citing unnamed official sources. The IT Rules, 2021, currently outline various consumer safety measures that digital platforms operating in India are expected to follow.

The new provisions may mandate that platforms train their AI language models or algorithms to be bias-free, with parameters for bias reportedly including caste, community, national security, and religion; consultations may be held to scope out additional parameters as well. Officials added that AI systems should also “undergo sandbox” and thus be stress-tested to ensure they’re bias-free, before hitting the market.

The rules may also bar inherently biased AI language models or algorithms from being launched for open use. This includes technologies trained on “such datasets which give out biased answers”.

The amendments may also cover tackling deep fakes and synthetic content, a hot-button regulatory issue that saw the IT Ministry hold multiple industry consultations over the last few weeks to address their proliferation. The sources added that the rules will also cover loan apps, and introduce mandates to prevent platforms from hosting apps that do not have requisite regulatory approvals.

What moves has the government made to regulate AI so far? The Indian government appears to be thinking through its approach to regulating artificial intelligence, although these are the larger updates we’ve gleaned so far:

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  • April 2023: In a parliamentary reply, Union Minister for IT Ashwini Vaishnaw claimed that the government isn’t “considering bringing a law or regulating the growth of artificial intelligence in the country”. However, Vaishnaw acknowledged that AI can pose ethical risks, highlighting concerns first mentioned in 2018’s National Strategy for AI, like biased decision-making, privacy harms, lack of transparency over systems, and more.
  • May 2023: During a consultation in Mumbai, Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the upcoming Digital India Bill will include rules to regulate artificial intelligence and “intermediaries that are high-risk AI”. The law is expected to replace the Information and Technology Act, 2000, the parent legislation from which the IT Rules, 2021, are derived. The law is expected to be released after the 2024 general elections.
  • August 2023: A draft of India’s (now-passed) data protection law proposed in August stated that it won’t apply to a user’s personal data that is made or caused to be made publicly available. As we reported at the time, this meant that “AI services like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard might be able to scrape publicly available personal data from the internet to train their models without any consent or without adhering to any other provisions of the Bill”.
  • November 2023: Chandrasekhar also claimed that users aggrieved by the biases of AI services like Google Bard could file a “police complaint” against them. Additionally, platforms generating biased content would lose their safe harbour protections under Indian law (safe harbour protects platforms from being held liable for the third-party content they host provided they comply with local regulations). Chandrasekhar argued that this is because the IT Rules place safety and trust obligations on platforms—and creating bias would violate these provisions.
  • December 2023: Addressing a parliamentary question, Chandrasekhar said Central and state governments have begun working on standardising responsible AI development guidelines, and to use and promote the adoption of these best practices (an answer repeated earlier in parliament the year too). Responding to a separate matter on whether the government would bring rules to regulate AI, Chandrasekhar said frameworks for emerging technologies were needed to set guardrails. He added that India’s recently-passed personal data protection law, and the IT Rules, 2021, may help address AI-related harms and instil platform accountability.

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