Joint letter to platform companies on deepfakes and manipulated media


Respected Ma’am/ Sir,

We are writing to address the critical issue of generative AI and manipulated media content and their potential to undermine the sanctity of elections in India. The emergence of deepfake technology presents a profound challenge, enabling the creation of highly realistic and manipulated media that can distort truth, manipulate public perception, and jeopardise the foundation of trust upon which our democracy rests.

As you are likely aware, generative AI and manipulated media content represent a profound and emerging threat to the integrity of information shared online. These highly sophisticated manipulations of media content can undermine the public’s trust in digital platforms and, more critically, in democratic processes themselves. With this technology’s increasing pervasiveness, it has become imperative to address the potential for misuse, especially in the context of elections.

Apart from ethical concerns, generative AI and manipulated media content entail legal risks as well, which may lead to instances of defamation, impersonation, identity theft, and sexual harassment, amongst other harms. Rule 3(2)(b) mandates due diligence concerning artificially morphed images impersonating an individual in any sexual act or conduct. This requires intermediaries to take all reasonable measures to remove or disable access to such content hosted, published, and transmitted on their platform within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. Failure to expeditiously remove or disable access upon knowledge of such content would strip intermediaries from the safe harbour protection under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. This may also attract penalties under Sections 66C, 66E, and 67 of the Act, as also Sections 354A, 354C, and 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

We recently held an experts’ discussion on digital interference in India’s forthcoming national elections – ‘Ballots and Bots: Elections 2024 In a Digital World’ on March 7th, 2024. Experts deliberated on the potential influence of IT cells, misinformation, deepfakes, and AI-powered audio and video manipulation during the impending general elections in India.

In the face of this growing concern, we call upon [X/Meta/Google/Snap/OpenAI] to take immediate and decisive action to ensure that the policies and practices robustly counter the menace of deepfakes, generative AI and manipulated media content. It is imperative that we work together to safeguard our electoral processes from external manipulations that threaten the democratic rights and freedoms of our citizens.

We urge you to:

  1. Identify systemic risks related to electoral processes – [X/Meta/Google/Snap/OpenAI] must reinforce internal processes to identify and design reasonable, proportionate, and effective mitigation measures. 
  2. Elections-specific risk mitigation measures: [X/Meta/Google/Snap/OpenAI] must set up an internal task force for elections-specific risk mitigation measures. The team should cover all relevant areas: cybersecurity, threat disruption, content moderation and disinformation. 
  3. [X/Meta/Google/Snap/OpenAI] must implement reasonable, proportionate, and effective mitigation measures tailored to the risks associated with creating and disseminating generative AI and manipulated media content. 

These measures may include: 

  1. Access to official information on electoral processes, 
  2. media literacy initiatives, 
  3. fact-checking labels and providing more contextual information, 
  4. tools and information to help users assess the provenance of information sources.
  5. ensure that generative AI and manipulated media are clearly distinguishable for users and labelled as such. 

The integrity of our electoral processes is a cornerstone of our democratic society. As such, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders, including large platforms such as [X/Meta/Google/Snap/OpenAI], to actively protect discourse from emerging threats. The measures we propose are crucial for the upcoming elections and imperative for preserving the long-term health and vibrancy of our democratic discourse.

We look forward to your positive response and are keen to discuss this matter further with you. Together, we can ensure that the digital landscape remains a space for free, fair, and truthful engagement, reflecting India’s democratic spirit.