Deepfakes safe harbour clause and IT Act 2000



Immediate context: Prime minister raised concern on deepfakes in a recent speech, in connection to one of his own fake video being circulated on social media.

What are the legal issues connected?

With the arrival of artificial intelligence(AI), it is easily possible that nearly similar faces can be created, which are difficult for an unsuspecting mind to find and circulate to spread disinformation. Social cost can be immense, leading to riots, loss of image, change in election outcomes, etc. & social media companies can take refuge in the “safe harbor clause” in  Section 79 of the IT Act 2000.

What are the deepfakes?

Using artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images and fake events of existent and non-existent events, is called deepfake.

What is the use of deepfakes?

Deepfakes are used in adverting industry for fairly non criminal reasons, but they can be used to take revenge on former friends or cater to an illicit industry as well as a weapon against women.

What is 'safe harbour'?

According to the safe harbour principle, any social media online platform e.g. instagram or youtube cannot be held accountable for the content posted on them by users.

safe harbour wouldn't be available if the intermediary "fails to expeditiously" take down a post or remove a particular content even after the government flags that a particular information.

Last year government tried to address the problem by making it mandatory, through the IT Rules of 2021, that social media platforms must appoint a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Resident Grievance Officer (RGO), and Nodal Contact Person.


In few months from now, the draft of the Digital India Act, meant to be the most significant piece of IT legislation in India, will be out for discussion. Govt. intends to,

  1. Put heavy focus on fact-checking to prevent misinformation or misuse of data
  2. Make social media platforms will now be held accountable for any content violations or cybercrimes that occur on their websites.
  3. Stop "weaponisation of misinformation".

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