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Deepfakes: ‘Sword Of Damocles’ Hanging Over India

Deepfake technology seamlessly integrates individuals from the real world into videos or photos, creating a deceptive portrayal of their involvement in scenarios they never participated in

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As India aims for a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025 through widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), concerns arise over the misuse of this technology. Deep fakes, manipulated videos and images, have raised alarms about the ethical use of AI in the country's tech landscape.

After a deepfake video featuring actress Rashmika Mandanna went viral recently, another video clip sought users’ attention wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi was performing Garba (traditional dance form). While the joyful video received millions of views and was much appreciated by the PM himself, he cautioned everyone on the menace of deepfakes. He said, “People who like me are sharing and reposting (forwarding) the video which is completely false because even though I am an excellent garba player, I never got an opportunity to engage in this activity after my school days.”

The Prime Minister expressed astonishment at an AI-generated video that appeared entirely authentic, highlighting the technology's potential to blur the lines between reality and falsehood. He stressed the looming challenges posed by AI, particularly citing the escalating security concerns driven by the proliferation of deepfakes.

Image: PM's Deepfake Viral Video Snap

He added as majority of people are unaware about the verification and authentication regarding the online content they watch, it’s the duty of the media to raise awareness about this emerging crisis. 

In the wake of the Prime Minister's apprehensions, the internet has been abuzz with another disconcerting deepfake video featuring the Bollywood actress Kajol. This clip portrays her seemingly changing outfits on camera as part of an Instagram trend. The unsettling nature of such manipulations adds an extra layer of concern, emphasising the potential impact on the lives of everyday individuals. The emerging threat strikes a chord with the sensitivity of the situation, raising awareness about the need for vigilance in navigating the evolving landscape of digital content.

                                             Viral video claiming to show actor <a href='/topics/Kajol-142' class='description_topic_highlight'>Kajol</a> changing clothes on camera is ...

Image: Kajol's Deepfake Viral Video Snap

Previously, popular actress Katrina Kaif and legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s daughter Sara Tendulkar have also fallen prey to deepfakes. While online fraudsters are responsible for these criminal offenses, earlier in May wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat had reportedly accused the IT cell for spreading their morphed AI images on internet.

The Phogat sisters’ viral false image was surfing online after they were detained by Delhi Police for protesting against Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and accusing him of sexually harassing female wrestlers, including a minor, as per reports.

Image: Phogat Sisters Fake vs Real Image

Sonit Jain, CEO of GajShield Infotech said that the prevalence of deepfakes can be attributed to the growing accessibility of deepfake technology and its application in various domains. “Deep fakes have found utility in entertainment, political manipulation and even fraudulent activities.”

He added that data protection and privacy laws need to be strengthened to limit the collection and use of personal data for deep fake creation without explicit consent. 

Aaron Bugal, Field CTO for Asia Pacific and Japan at Sophos, suggested that using digitally signed videos could serve as a protective measure to verify the authenticity of viral content. Drawing parallels to the way certificates are employed to validate the security of websites and email communications, he proposed a similar approach for validating digital media.

He added, “As technology evolves and deepfake production times shrink and quality vastly improves, a point may come where it’s impossible to distinguish a deepfake from real recorded content; therefore, validating content as true using a signing or verification process is needed.”

What Are Deepfakes?

Deepfake technology seamlessly integrates individuals from the real world into videos or photos, creating a deceptive portrayal of their involvement in scenarios they never participated in. While false representations have been a concern for decades, the advancement of AI has elevated the authenticity of these fabrications to an unprecedented level, making them appear entirely real.

According to a new report by Onfido, an ID verification unicorn based in London, deepfake fraud attempts have increased by a whopping 31 times in 2023 — a 3,000 per cent increase year-on-year. The report attributed the surge to the growing availability of cheap and simple online tools and generative AI.

Legal Obligation Against Deepfakes In India

Following the Rashmika Mandanna deepfake controversy, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) underlined the legal obligation that mandates all online platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation by any user under the Information Technology (IT) rules, 2021. 

Further, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar stressed that online platforms are mandated to remove fake content within a period of 36 hours upon receiving a report from either a user or government authority.