The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued an advisory to all social media intermediaries to ensure compliance with the existing IT rules. The directive specifically targets the growing concerns around misinformation powered by artificial intelligence (AI) deepfakes.

The advisory mandates that intermediaries communicate prohibited content, particularly those specified under Rule 3(1)(b) of the IT Rules, clearly and precisely to users. "The content not permitted under the IT Rules, in particular those listed under Rule 3(1)(b) must be clearly communicated to the users in clear and precise language including through its terms of service and user agreements and the same must be expressly informed to the user at the time of first-registration and also as regular reminders, in particular, at every instance of login and while uploading/sharing information onto the platform," the advisory says.

The advisory emphasises that digital intermediaries must ensure users are informed about penal provisions, including those in the IPC and the IT Act 2000, in case of Rule 3(1)(b) violations.

Rule 3(1)(b) within the due diligence section of the IT rules mandates intermediaries to communicate their regulations, privacy policy, and user agreement in the user's preferred language. They are also obliged to ensure reasonable efforts to prevent users from hosting, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, transmitting, storing, updating, or sharing any information related to the 11 listed user harms or content prohibited on digital intermediaries. This rule aims to ensure platforms identify and promptly remove misinformation, false or misleading content, and material impersonating others, including deepfakes.

Over the past month, Union Minister of State for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar convened stakeholder meetings with industry leaders to address the pressing issue of deepfakes. During the meeting, he highlighted the urgency for all platforms and intermediaries to strictly adhere to the current laws and regulations, emphasising that the IT rules comprehensively address the menace of deepfakes.

"Misinformation represents a deep threat to the safety and trust of users on the Internet. Deepfake which is misinformation powered by AI, further amplifies the threat to safety and trust of our Digital Nagriks," says Chandrasekhar.

On November 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alerted the country to the dangers of deepfakes and post that, the ministry has had two Digital India Dialogues with all the stakeholders of the Indian Internet to alert them about the provisions of the IT Rules notified in October 2022, and amended in April 2023 that lays out 11 specific prohibited types of content on all social media intermediaries and platforms.

The minister further emphasised that Rule 3(1)(b)(v) explicitly prohibits the dissemination of misinformation. Consequently, all intermediaries were asked to exercise due diligence in promptly removing such content from their platforms. He further says that platforms have been duly informed about the legal consequences associated with any violations under the IT rules.

"Rule 3(1)(b)(v) prohibits misinformation and patently false information. During the two Digital India Dialogues, Government and industry have agreed to more measures to ensure compliance by platforms and users with the IT rules which have been explained earlier in the media. Today, a formal advisory has been issued incorporating the ‘agreed to’ procedures to ensure that users on these platforms do not violate the prohibited content in Rule 3(1)(b) and if such legal violations are noted or reported then the consequences under law will follow," Chandrasekhar says.

MeitY will closely observe the compliance of intermediaries in the coming weeks and follow this up with further amendments to the IT rules and the law if required.

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