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Guarding Truth in the Age of Deepfakes: Government Takes Action to Preserve Democracy and Trust!

In response to the rising threat of deepfakes and their potential impact on democracy and societal trust, the government is taking decisive steps to regulate both creators and platforms hosting such content. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced plans for comprehensive regulations during a press briefing after a meeting with industry stakeholders, social media platforms, lobby groups, and academicians.

Expressing the urgency of the situation, Vaishnaw stated, “Deepfakes are the new threat to democracy and weaken trust in society. We will start drafting regulations today, and within a short time, perhaps the next few weeks, we will have a new set of regulations.” The government is considering various measures, including watermarking AI-generated content, implementing deepfake detection, addressing data bias, privacy concerns, and safeguards against concentration.

The IT Ministry aims to unveil an action plan within 10 days to effectively combat deepfakes. “Over the next 10 days, we will come up with actionable items on the four pillars: detection, prevention, reporting, and awareness around deepfakes,” Vaishnaw added. Social media platforms will be revisited in the first week of December to further discuss the proposed regulations.

The mechanism to be adopted may involve the formulation of a new law, amendment of existing laws, or the introduction of fresh rules. The regulatory framework is expected to include penal clauses with financial implications and legal recourse for violators.

During the meeting, participants unanimously agreed on four key pillars of action:

Detection: Implementation of measures to detect deepfake content before and after it is posted.
Prevention: Establishing an effective mechanism to prevent the propagation of deepfake content.
Reporting: Ensuring efficient reporting and grievance redressal mechanisms for dealing with deepfake incidents.
Awareness: Launching mass awareness campaigns to educate the public about the implications of deepfakes.
Highlighting that deepfakes do not constitute free speech, Vaishnaw emphasized the need for “labelling or watermarking” to enable clear identification of altered content. Discussions on provisions related to penal action will take place in subsequent meetings, and once the draft rules are ready, they will be opened for public discussion and suggestions.

The government is open to the idea of leveraging AI-enabled tools to combat deepfakes. Vaishnaw noted that social media companies acknowledged the global nature of the deepfake problem and agreed on the necessity of finding effective solutions.

The urgency of the issue became apparent when a digitally altered video of actor Rash-Mika Mandanna went viral, prompting the IT Ministry to issue warnings to social media platforms. Failure to remove deepfake content could result in penalties, including the loss of safe-harbor provisions that provide legal immunity to internet platforms against user-shared content.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi further underscored the global nature of the challenge in a virtual summit of G-20 nations, urging collective efforts to regulate AI and expressing concerns about the negative impacts of deepfakes on society.

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