Government Issues Advisory to Social Media Intermediaries to Identify Misinformation and Deep Fakes

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December 27, 2023

Government Issues Advisory to Social Media Intermediaries to Identify Misinformation and Deep Fakes

The country has witnessed a rapid surge in incidents involving malafide usage of AI-generated deepfakes (particularly targeting women). The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has taken cognizance of the situation and has issued an advisory to social media intermediaries (SMIs) to address this issue. The advisory, inter alia, mentions that – “The content not permitted under the IT Rules, in particular, those listed under Rule 3(1)(b) must be 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”.

The advisory further mentions that the users must be made aware of the various penal provisions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Information Technology Act, 2000 and other laws in case of violation of Rule 3(1)(b) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“IT Rules”). Section 3(1)(b) of the IT Rules contains a list of information which is prohibited to be hosted, displayed, uploaded, modified, published, transmitted, stored, updated or shared by users.

In essence, MeitY has directed SSMIs to:

  • Ensure that they exercise due diligence and invest reasonable effort to identify misinformation and deepfakes. In particular, MeitY has advised SSMIs to ensure that that content which violates the rules and regulations and/or the user agreements of their platform, should not feature on the platform.
  • Ensure that expeditious action is taken against such content (and the user) as per the timelines prescribed under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, inter alia, removal of such content within 36 hours of reporting of such content.
  • Inform users to not host such content on online platforms.

The advisory also mentions that failure to comply with the legislative provisions would result in the intermediaries being liable under Rule 7 of the IT Rules, 2021, which would resultantly render the organization to lose their safe harbour protection under Section 79(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (and make them susceptible to legal actions in respect of third-party content hosted on their platform). 

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