Need strict regulation against deepfakes to prevent unrest in country: BJP MLA writes to Law Min

Need strict regulation against deepfakes to prevent unrest in country: BJP MLA writes to Law Min

Lucknow, Nov 18 (PTI) Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Rajeshwar Singh has sought a strengthened legal framework and 'strict regulation' of laws to check deepfake and forged videos, saying they have the potential to create social, political and economic unrest in the country.

The legislator, a former officer of the Enforcement Directorate and also a lawyer, recently wrote to Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal citing scenarios where such wrong use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and smart software has led to various risks including threats to fundamental rights and dignity of women, political and economic stability, press freedom and a danger to society at large.

'I am writing this letter in view of the emergent need in the present times for reworking the legislative framework to regulate offences relating to digital forgeries such as fake videos generated vide artificial intelligence with the aim of maligning the reputation of individuals, thereby violating their Fundamental Right to Privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,' Singh said in the letter.

'This, in turn, has a ripple effect on distorting the democratic and social fabric of the nation,' he wrote.

The letter issued on Saturday has been accessed by PTI and it underlines that 'currently there exists many loopholes in the present laws that cannot prevent deepfakes from harming  people and society in general.' 'We have to collaboratively come up with innovative methods on a war footing or risk the situation spiralling out of control,' Singh wrote.

He suggested that a committee of experts could be created who could formulate a comprehensive legal framework to stop the misuse of Al within a specific time frame.

The term deepfake, according to the MLA from the Sarojini Nagar constituency of Lucknow, originated in 2017 when an anonymous Reddit user identified himself by the username 'Deepfakes'.  This user manipulated Google's open-source, deep-learning technology to create and post pornographic videos. Deepfake in essence is content (video, audio or otherwise) that is wholly or partially fabricated or existing content (video, audio or otherwise) that has been manipulated to create digital forgeries, Singh's letter stated.

Singh wrote that the existing legal regime is 'insufficient' to protect citizens from the adverse manipulation of this technology and there is an urgent need for strengthening the existing legal framework to meet these challenges.  'The scale of the turmoil that will ensue has the capacity to create social, political and economic unrest amongst the nation if the same is not addressed swiftly and in a strong manner,' he said.

The politician said deepfakes had the potential of spreading disinformation and 'manipulating public opinion, inciting acts of violence towards minority groups, supporting the narratives of extremist or even terrorist groups, and, stoking social unrest and political polarization'.

The MLA also pointed out the much-reported recent deepfake video that targeted actor Rashmika Mandanna, saying this reflected the 'malevolent form of the desire to attain virality on the back of celebrities, a desire that can be unfortunately be met and enflamed further by the introduction of such technologies'.

It is important to check deepfakes given the upcoming general elections in 2024 as such unregulated content could 'potentially lead to a democratic disruption causing a social and political turmoil and consequently putting the very integrity of our democracy at risk', Singh wrote. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also had cautioned on Friday that deepfakes created by artificial intelligence can lead to a big crisis and stoke discontent in society, as he urged the press to raise awareness about its misuse and educate people.

The MLA's letter seeking legal intervention to check deepfakes has also been sent to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI NES RPA

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