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Centre issues Deepfake advisory; platforms told to ensure users don't violate IT rules

MeitY has issued an advisory to digital intermediaries, directing compliance with existing IT rules to combat the threat of misinformation, particularly fueled by AI-generated deepfakes. The advisory mandates clear communication of prohibited content to users, emphasizing awareness of penal provisions in case of violations

Centre issues Deepfake advisory; platforms told to ensure users don't violate IT rules
First Published Dec 26, 2023, 7:36 PM IST

In a significant move, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued an advisory to all intermediaries, urging compliance with the existing IT rules. The directive focuses on addressing concerns related to the rising threat of misinformation, particularly fueled by artificial intelligence (AI)-Deepfakes. The advisory makes it mandatory for intermediaries to clearly and precisely communicate prohibited content, especially those specified under Rule 3(1)(b) of the IT Rules, to users. This development follows discussions led by Union Minister of State for Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, during Digital India dialogues with intermediaries within one month.

The advisory states, "The content not permitted under the IT Rules, in particular those listed under Rule 3(1)(b), must be clearly communicated to the users in clear and precise language including through its terms of service and user agreements and the same must be expressly informed to the user at the time of first-registration and also as regular reminders, in particular, at every instance of login and while uploading/sharing information onto the platform.”

Emphasizing the need for user awareness, the advisory underlines that digital intermediaries must inform users about penal provisions, including those in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the IT Act 2000, in case of Rule 3(1)(b) violations.

"The users must be made aware of the various penal provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, the IT Act, 2000 and such other laws that may be attracted in case of violation of Rule 3(1)(b). In addition, the terms of service and user agreements must clearly highlight that intermediaries/platforms are under obligation to report legal violations to the law enforcement agencies under the relevant Indian laws applicable to the context," the advisory further added.

Rule 3(1)(b) within the due diligence section of the IT rules mandates intermediaries to communicate their rules, regulations, privacy policy, and user agreement in the user’s preferred language. They are also obliged to ensure reasonable efforts to prevent users from hosting, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, transmitting, storing, updating, or sharing any information related to the 11 listed user harms or content prohibited on digital intermediaries. 

This rule aims to ensure platforms identify and promptly remove misinformation, false or misleading content, and material impersonating others, including deepfakes.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar has been proactive in addressing the deepfake issue, convening pivotal stakeholder meetings with industry leaders over a one-month period. He highlighted the urgency for all platforms and intermediaries to strictly adhere to current laws and regulations, emphasizing that the IT rules comprehensively address the menace of deepfakes.

The Union Minister said, "Misinformation represents a deep threat to the safety and trust of users on the Internet. Deepfake, which is misinformation powered by AI, further amplifies the threat to the safety and trust of our Digital Nagriks."

The minister further emphasized that Rule 3(1)(b)(v) explicitly prohibits the dissemination of misinformation. Consequently, all intermediaries were asked to exercise due diligence in promptly removing such content from their platforms. He also emphasized that platforms have been duly informed about the legal consequences associated with any violations under the IT rules.

"Rule 3(1)(b)(v) prohibits misinformation and patently false information. During the two Digital India Dialogues, the Government and industry have agreed to more measures to ensure compliance by platforms and users with the IT rules which have been explained earlier in the media. Today, a formal advisory has been issued incorporating the ‘agreed to’ procedures to ensure that users on these platforms do not violate the prohibited content in Rule 3(1)(b) and if such legal violations are noted or reported then the consequences under the law will follow. MeitY will closely observe the compliance of intermediaries in the coming weeks and follow this up with further amendments to the IT Rules and/or the law if and when required. It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government’s mission to ensure that the internet is safe & trusted and all intermediaries are accountable under law for the safety and trust of the Digital Nagriks that use the Indian Internet," the minister further added.

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