HC disposes of plea for ECI to formulate guidelines to curb deepfake use | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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HC disposes of plea for ECI to formulate guidelines to curb deepfake use

May 02, 2024 03:52 PM IST

The Delhi high court said there was no technology to stop the creation of deepfake but those posting fake videos could be acted against

The Delhi high court on Thursday disposed of a plea seeking directions for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to formulate guidelines to curb the use of deepfake technologies in political campaigns for Lok Sabha polls, saying it cannot devise a policy during elections.

The court said its direction at this stage will be improper. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The court said its direction at this stage will be improper. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It said the court’s direction at this stage will be improper. “All of this is to be done before the elections. At the 11th hour, courts cannot interfere. At this moment, it will not be proper for the court to intervene with the jurisdiction of the ECI...Let us trust the ECI,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora told senior advocate Jayant Mehta, who represented the petitioner Lawyers Voice.

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The plea said deepfakes and the dissemination of misinformation on social media platforms and the internet during elections threaten the foundation of a free and fair election. It underlined that rapid dissemination of deepfake content concerning political leaders could allow third parties to manipulate poll results.

The plea cited deepfake videos of Union minister Amit Shah, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and actors such as Ranveer Singh and Amir Khan. It sought the taking down of these videos for spreading misinformation.

Mehta said there was a gap in the regulatory mechanism under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which mandated social media intermediaries to act on the complaints within 24 hours. He added the period was too long. “They must pro actively act to ensure that once a particular video is deepfake...all those other URLs are also blocked down,” Mehta said. He urged the court to direct ECI to tighten the mechanism and make it quicker.

The bench refused to accept Mehta’s request, emphasising the mechanism was appropriate and could not be made faster. It added action could be taken against the culprits. “You cannot reduce the time. The mechanism that they have devised is appropriate no. They cannot make it faster. It cannot be shorter than 24 hours because they [intermediaries] say that we have got a billion users.”

The bench said it was bound by the law. “We cannot go beyond the law. Rules have been framed.. what can we do?” It added there was no technology to stop the creation of deepfake, but those posting fake videos could be acted against and their names put in the public domain.

ECI’s lawyer told the bench that the videos referred to in the plea have been taken down and cases have been registered. He said that the petitioner could send a representation to ECI, which would be decided before Monday.

The court noted the statement and directed the petitioner to file a representation while asking ECI to decide it by May 6. “In the event a comprehensive representation is filed by the petitioner with the ECI, the same shall be decided...the court directs the petitioners to file a representation during the course of the day. The ECI is directed to decide the representation as expeditiously as possible in view of the urgency. The counsel for the ECI states that the ECI shall decide it as expeditiously as possible on or before Monday. Accordingly, the plea stands disposed of,” the court said.

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