After viral video, IT Ministry issues warning to social media sites on deepfakes

As a morphed clip featuring actor Rashmika Mandanna went viral on Instagram over the weekend, the IT Ministry has warned that impersonated content online is illegal.

November 07, 2023 07:40 pm | Updated November 08, 2023 12:31 am IST - NEW DELHI

Deepfakes are usually based on real videos, and are edited to change people’s appearance, how they sound, and more.

Deepfakes are usually based on real videos, and are edited to change people’s appearance, how they sound, and more. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

After a so-called ‘deepfake’ video clip of actor Rashmika Mandanna went viral on social media platforms like Instagram, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has now sent notices to “all social media intermediaries,” reminding them that impersonation online is illegal, said a press release.

Earlier, the actor had issued a statement expressing horror. The seconds-long clip, which featured Ms. Mandanna’s likeness, showed a woman entering a lift in a bodysuit.

The original video featured a British-Indian model, who had posted the clip on Instagram last October.

Also Read | Rashmika Mandanna deepfake video: Mrunal Thakur, Naga Chaitanya demand action

The Ministry warned platforms to take such content down within 36 hours, a requirement outlined in the IT Rules, 2021. It also urged that “due diligence is exercised and reasonable efforts are made to identify misinformation and deepfakes”.

Ms. Mandanna expressed horror earlier on Monday at the video, calling the experience of the clip going viral scary. While she had support from the public and her family this time, she said, “If this happened to me when I was in school or college, I genuinely can’t imagine how could I ever tackle this.”

Meta did not respond to queries seeking comment on the incident.

Also Read | The danger of deepfakes

Deepfakes are usually based on real videos, and are edited to change people’s appearance, how they sound, and more. Video deepfakes are growing rapidly in ease and quality, due to improving technology and falling costs of Artificial Intelligence systems that are often used to make them. “The tools to create and disseminate disinformation are easier, faster, cheaper and more accessible than ever,” the Deeptrust Alliance, a coalition of civil society and industry stakeholders deliberating on what they call ‘synthetic media’ said in 2020.

In notices to social media firms, the IT Ministry said that impersonation online was illegal under Section 66D of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The IT Rules, 2021, also prohibit “host[ing] any content that impersonates another person,” and requires social media firms to quickly take down “artificially morphed images of [an] individual” when alerted to one.

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