India urges political parties to avoid using deepfakes in election campaigns

India’s Election Commission has issued an advisory to all political parties, urging them to refrain from using deepfakes and other forms of misinformation in their social media posts during the country’s ongoing general elections. The move comes after the constitutional body faced criticism for not doing enough to combat such campaigns in the world’s most populous nation.

The advisory, released on Monday (PDF), requires political parties to remove any deepfake audio or video within three hours of becoming aware of its existence. Parties are also advised to identify and warn the individuals responsible for creating the manipulated content. The Election Commission’s action follows a Delhi High Court order asking the body to resolve the matter after the issue was raised in a petition.

India, home to over 1.5 billion people, began its general elections on April 19, with the voting process set to conclude on June 1. The election has already been marred by controversies surrounding the use of deepfakes and misinformation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi complained late last month about the use of fake voices to purportedly show leaders making statements they had “never even thought of,” alleging that this was part of a conspiracy designed to sow tension in society.

The Indian police have arrested at least six people from the social media teams of the Indian National Congress, the nation’s top opposition party, for circulating a fake video showing Home Minister Amit Shah making statements he claims he never made.

India has been grappling about the use and spread of deepfakes for several months now. Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s IT Minister, met large social media companies, including Meta and Google, in November, and “reached a consensus” that regulation was needed to better combat the spread of deepfake videos as well as apps that facilitate their creation.

Another IT Minister in January warned tech companies of severe penalties, including bans, if they failed to take active measures against deepfake videos. The nation is yet to codify its draft regulation on deepfakes into law.

The Election Commission said on Monday it has been “repeatedly directing” the political parties and their leaders to “maintain decorum and utmost restraint in public campaigning.”

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