MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar addresses deepfake threat and digital legislation progress

PoliCharcha | Updated: December 29, 2023, 3:34 PM

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MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar addresses deepfake threat and digital legislation progress

In a recent statement, MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar highlighted the escalating challenge posed by deepfakes and misinformation to Indian democracy, terming it "a very problematic issue." Chandrasekhar, who serves as the Minister of State for IT and Electronics, asserted that the government is closely monitoring the steps taken by digital platforms to address these concerns.

"The minister also promised that inaction on their part may prompt an amendment to the IT Rules that will be more 'prescriptive.'"

In an interview with PTI, Chandrasekhar outlined notable achievements in 2023, including the progress on the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) legislation, the establishment of grievance appellate panels, and enhanced accountability measures on digital platforms for user safety.

However, he acknowledged that the Digital India Act, set to supersede the 22-year-old Information Technology Act, remained an "unfinished agenda" despite extensive pre-consultations.

"The Digital India Act...spent almost a year on pre-consultations...we ran out of time...certainly, it's an unfinished, incomplete agenda," Chandrasekhar said, emphasising the enduring principles advocated in the DIA.

India, approaching general elections early next year, anticipates the legislation of the DIA post the 2024 polls and government formation.

Addressing the deepfake issue, Chandrasekhar expressed deep concern about its impact on the conduct of safe and fair elections in India, highlighting the challenges it poses to personal liberty and individual lives. The government has alerted digital platforms about the potential problems associated with misinformation and deepfakes, urging them to take necessary actions. However, the platforms' failure to respond adequately led to the issuance of advisories.

"They should have done a number of things in terms of prosecuting and barring people who are violating these laws. They didn't do any of this...deepfakes are trying to influence election outcomes," Chandrasekhar noted.

The government plans to closely monitor intermediaries following advisories and is prepared to amend IT rules if necessary, signalling a tougher stance on the issue. This move comes in the wake of growing concerns surrounding deepfakes powered by artificial intelligence.

Earlier this week, the government directed all platforms to comply with IT rules, emphasising transparency about prohibited content. Chandrasekhar acknowledged that while some platforms have respected Indian law, others in different jurisdictions remain uncertain about which laws to follow.

The government's firm approach comes in response to deepfake videos targeting public figures, sparking outrage and raising concerns about the misuse of technology. The Centre has urged platforms to align their terms of use and community guidelines with IT Rules and current laws, warning of strict consequences for non-compliance.