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Identify & remove deepfakes else face legal action, govt reminds intermediaries

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The government has emphasised that social media intermediaries should identify and remove misinformation or information that impersonates another person, including those created using deepfakes, else face the legal action, as actor Akshay Kumar finds himself in the crosshairs of a deepfake scandal.

A fabricated video of Kumar has surfaced online, featuring the superstar promoting a game application, while the actor has never indulged in promotions of any such activity.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said that misinformation and deepfakes are among the harms that are the direct consequence of artificial intelligence (AI).

“The IT Rules, 2021 cast specific legal obligations on intermediaries, including social media intermediaries and platforms, to ensure their accountability towards safe & trusted Internet including their expeditious action towards removal of the prohibited misinformation, patently false information and deepfakes,” the minister said.

In case of failure of the intermediaries to observe the legal obligations as provided in the IT Rules, 2021, “they lose their safe harbour protection under section 79 of the IT Act and shall be liable for consequential action or prosecution as provided under any law for the time being in force including the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code, including section 469 of the IPC”.

Earlier, there have been deepfake videos of actors like Rashmika Mandanna, Nora Fatehi, Katrina Kaif, Kajol and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar doing rounds on the internet.

According to Chandrasekhar, intermediaries must enable users, victims or any person on their behalf, to also report violations relating to Rule 3(1)(b) or Rule 3(2)(b) in a simple and easily accessible manner, including through in-app user reporting.

“Intermediaries must comply with the orders of the Grievance Appellate Committee within the timeline mentioned in the order and publish a report. Intermediaries should take additional measures to not permit any advertisements of illegal loan and betting apps.

“Intermediaries have been warned that non-compliance will lead to losing exemption from liability provided under section 79(1) of IT Act,” the minister emphasised.

The policies of the government are aimed at ensuring that the Internet in India is open, safe and trusted and accountable to all the ‘Digital Nagriks’, he added.