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Delhi High Court seeks Centre's response over Rajat Sharma's PIL over deepfakes

The Delhi High Court, on a plea moved by Rajat Sharma against non-regulation of deepfake technology, asked the union government if it was willing to act in this matter. The petition raises an important issue relating to deepfakes, the non-regulation of deepfakes and its dire consequences.

Edited By: Shashwat Bhandari @ShashBhandari New Delhi Updated on: May 08, 2024 18:02 IST
India TV Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma

India TV's Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma has moved a plea in the Delhi High Court against the non-regulation of deep fake technology. Following which, a division bench of the High Court comprising acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, has issued notice on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by Rajat Sharma and sought a response from the Union Government through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

During the hearing, the bench orally remarked that "this is a major problem" and asked the Central Government if it is willing to act on the issue. "Political parties are complaining about this as well. You are not taking any action...," the court noted.

According to the plea, the proliferation of deepfake technology poses significant threats to various aspects of society, including misinformation and disinformation campaigns, undermining integrity of public discourse and democratic processes, potential use in fraud and identity theft as well as harm to individuals' reputations and privacy.

"All the threats listed above are compounded when a deepfake is made of an influential person such as a politician, sportsman, actor, or any other public figure capable of influencing public opinion. This is even more so in the case of a person such as the Petitioner who is visible on television on a daily basis and on whose statements the public has come to place faith in," the plea further states.

The plea states that there is a need for strict enforcement and proactive action to mitigate the potential harms associated with their misuse.

Drawing attention towards non-regulation of deepfake technology, the plea adds that the absence of adequate regulation and safeguards against the misuse of deepfake technology poses a grave risk to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial.

"The absence of a dedicated mechanism to deal with deepfakes has led to a vacuum, which in turn is violating the personal liberty and privacy of the citizens of this country. The State has a positive obligation to ensure that the right to privacy is not impeded due to the conduct of private parties," it added.

The plea mentioned that the government back in November 2023 showed an intent to formulate regulation for dealing with deepfake and synthetic content but nothing of the sort has seen the light of day thus far.

The plea has sought direction of the Union Government to identify and block public access to mediums that allow the creation of deepfakes such as softwares, applications, platforms, and websites.

The plea further sought that a nodal officer must be appointed to receive complaints regarding deepfakes and act upon them within 12 hours and 06 hours in cases when complaints are received regarding content featuring a public figure.

The plea also seeks the court's direction to the government to issue a directive to the social media intermediaries to take immediate action and take down deepfakes upon the receipt of a complaint from the person concerned.

It also sought a direction to the PR websites, and platforms, that are enabling the creation of deepfakes to disclose that the content is generated via AI (Artificial Intelligence) by some watermark or some other effective methodology.

The plea has sought guidelines that any access to AI and deepfakes if it's carried out must ensure that they are in accordance with the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part-III of the Constitution till relevant rules are framed by the Centre.

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