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‘Remove deepfakes otherwise risk legal action’: Govt tells social media companies

News Trust of India: In a sharp message to social media companies, the government has highlighted the necessity of immediately recognizing and eliminating misinformation, including deepfakes, or risk legal ramifications. This warning comes in the aftermath of a deepfake scandal involving famed actor Akshay Kumar.

A digitally manipulated video reportedly portraying Kumar endorsing a gaming program has emerged online, despite the actor’s rejection of any involvement in such advertising.

Responding to concerns in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, highlighted the adverse impact of disinformation and deepfakes, attributing them to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI).

Chandrasekhar underlined the legal requirements put on intermediaries by the IT Rules, 2021, which compel the quick removal of unlawful material, misleading information, and deepfakes. Failure to comply with these requirements strips intermediaries of their legal protection and exposes them to probable prosecution under relevant laws, including the Indian Penal Code.

“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,” he added.

The ubiquity of deepfake films extends beyond Kumar, with past examples involving renowned figures such as Rashmika Mandanna, Nora Fatehi, Katrina Kaif, Kajol, and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.