Mixed response to deepfake advisory; govt to notify rules in week

The amended IT rules will come up in the next one week, the Minister said.

New Delhi: Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Tuesday said compliance with the advisory on deepfakes has been “mixed” from social media and online platforms, and promised that amended IT rules will be notified in a week to tackle the issue.

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The Minister of State for IT and Electronics asserted that the onus of detecting and taking down deepfakes and prohibited content lies with the platforms and intermediaries, and warned that any inaction or casual approach on their part to this “core responsibility” of preventing user harm may even lead to them being blocked.

The latest ultimatum underlines the hardening of the government’s stance on the issue of deepfakes and misinformation powered by AI, after the Centre categorically told platforms to crack down with urgency on doctored and manipulated videos rampantly being circulated on social media.

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Chandrasekhar pointed out that the government had earlier made it amply clear to social media and online platforms that if its advisory on deepfake is not fully adhered to, new IT rules would follow.

“There has been a mixed performance of compliance and I had said at the time of the advisory, that if we find that the advisory is not being followed through completely, we will follow it up with a very clear amended IT rules that will be notified,” Chandrasekhar said on the sidelines of his visit to boAt manufacturing unit.

The amended IT rules will come up in the next one week, the Minister said.

“What was in the advisory will now be firmly embedded into the IT rules and we hope to do this in the next one week,” he said.

Deepfakes refer to synthetic or doctored media that is digitally manipulated and altered to convincingly misrepresent or impersonate someone using a form of artificial intelligence or AI.

Last month, the government directed all platforms to comply with the IT rules and mandated companies to inform users in clear and precise terms about prohibited content.

The government talked tough with social media platforms after several ‘deepfake’ videos targeting leading actors, including Rashmika Mandanna, sparked public outrage and raised concerns over the weaponisation of technology for creating synthetic content and harmful narratives.

Addressing a press conference at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday, Chandrasekhar said that the government has done two rounds of Digital India dialogues with intermediaries (platforms), drawing their attention to current rules and cautioning them about consequences of non-compliance.

“We have drawn their attention to the current rules. We have drawn their attention to the consequences of non-compliance. We have issued an advisory and we have also said that if we are not satisfied with the compliance, we will notify newly amended rules that are much more specific to the issue of misinformation and deepfakes in particular,” the Minister said.

As such, the current IT rules already prohibit misinformation and deepfakes, and the government through the recent advisories prescribed certain specific actions including amendment of `terms of use’.

“That prescription is not there in the rules…if it is not enough after the government suggests through an advisory what amendments have to be done to their `Terms of Use’ we will then embed that explicitly in the rules saying that this should be done by you to comply with the rules

“…which is why I said we will wait for the advisory, we will see the compliance to the advisory, and if we find that there is still some non-compliance or partial compliance, we will follow it up and notify new rules which we are now going to do,” he explained.

The Minister said that platforms have a “core responsibility” of preventing user harm, and inability on their part to meet these obligations will lead to Government action. “We have made it clear that these are not things based on their `best effort’…these are illegalities and harms and cannot remain on your platforms…there are 11 types of harms explicitly mentioned including CSAM, and platforms have to ensure that no user puts out such content

“If any platform fails to act on deepfakes or has a casual attitude to it, we have the option of blocking that platform to prevent user harm, we are ready to go to even that extent,” he said.

Over the past weeks the Centre has asked platforms to act decisively on deepfakes and align their `terms of use’ and community guidelines as per the IT Rules and current laws. The government has said in clear terms that any compliance failure would be dealt with strictly and evoke legal consequences.

The issue of deepfakes came into the public glare on Monday again when legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar flagged his deepfake video doing the rounds, following which Chandrasekhar assured that government will soon notify tighter rules under the IT Act to ensure compliance by platforms.

Last month, Chandrasekhar had said that for a large, connected nation like India, deepfakes and misinformation represent a “very problematic issue” to conducting of safe, free and fair elections.

In fact, ahead of general elections, US-based artificial intelligence research organization OpenAI has said it will not allow its AI to be used for political campaigning and continue to work to prevent misleading ‘deepfakes’ and chatbots impersonating candidates.

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