Indian government to introduce stricter rules for combatting deepfake misuse

In response to the rampant misuse of deepfakes, the Indian government is set to introduce new rules that explicitly define criminal liability for the creation and dissemination of such content. Minister of State for Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, announced on Tuesday that the amended Information Technology rules would equate the peddling of deepfake content on social media platforms with forgery under criminal law.

The forthcoming rules, expected to be notified within the next seven to eight days, will empower victims to file criminal cases against offenders, along with individuals possessing knowledge of content being deepfake. The government aims to strengthen its stance against deepfakes, emphasising that it won’t hesitate to block social media platforms found in violation of the impending rules.

Mr. Chandrasekhar highlighted the need for explicit criminal liability provisions for deepfakes, indicating a departure from the previous advisory issued in November 2023 to social media intermediaries. The advisory, which outlined responsibilities for preventing, detecting, and taking down deepfakes, will be incorporated into the new IT rules with stricter modifications.

The Minister emphasised that compliance with the advisory has been mixed and warned that any inaction or casual approach by platforms regarding their responsibility to prevent user harm may lead to them being blocked. The government’s intention is to prescribe clear amendments to the terms of use for social media platforms, ensuring a more proactive framework against the spread of misinformation and deepfakes.

Concerns over the potential misuse of deepfakes have escalated, especially in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Evidence from the West, including the doctored video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2020, has also shown the global threat posed by deepfakes. The 2019 US Worldwide Threat Assessment had warned of adversaries using deepfakes to influence political campaigns.

Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar has also recently brought attention to the deepfake issue after a manipulated video featuring him endorsing an online gaming app surfaced. Tendulkar urged social media platforms to be alert and responsive to such complaints.

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