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IT Rules under scrutiny as government seeks WhatsApp source ID disclosure over Deepfake threat

The government is acting in response to the proliferation of deepfake videos featuring politicians on WhatsApp. It is reportedly in the stages of issuing an order to WhatsApp under the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, to disclose the identities of the initial sharers of these videos.

Saumya Nigam Written By: Saumya Nigam @snigam04 New Delhi Published on: October 16, 2023 17:45 IST
whatsapp, it regulation
Image Source : FILE Government examines IT regulations to compel WhatsApp source ID disclosure due to Deepfakes

The Indian government is considering invoking a controversial law to compel WhatsApp to disclose the identity of the initial sender of a message due to the increasing spread of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven misinformation on the platform. The move comes as the country prepares for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The decision is based on the circulation of multiple deepfake videos of politicians on WhatsApp, which could potentially harm electoral integrity. Deepfakes involve digitally altering a person's face or body to make them appear as someone else, often used to spread false information.

A senior government official stated that the decision wasn't about partisanship, as the fake videos featured politicians from various political parties. This marks the first time the Central government will directly send an internet platform an order under Section 4(2) of the IT Rules, 2021.

However, this move is expected to be controversial, as WhatsApp and Facebook challenged the provision in the Delhi High Court in 2021, arguing that it would severely undermine user privacy. The case is ongoing, reflecting the tension between social media platforms and the government regarding issues like online misinformation, particularly during elections.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar suggested that the government was open to sending the notice to WhatsApp to address the issue of fake videos and audio being anonymously propagated on messaging platforms. Under the IT Rules, online messaging companies are required to reveal the identity of the person who initially sends a specific message on their platform. WhatsApp has raised concerns about this provision, stating that it threatens its end-to-end encryption system, while the government insists it won't impact normal users.

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WhatsApp has yet to respond to the government's considerations. In recent developments, the Tripura High Court stayed an order that directed WhatsApp to disclose the first originator of a chat containing a fake resignation letter of Chief Minister Manik Saha, questioning the extent of the threat to "public order" and the rapid issuance of the traceability order after an FIR was filed.

Please note that this rewrite is a summary of the original article and may not include all the details and nuances present in the source material.

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