India warns Facebook, YouTube to enforce rules to counter fabricated content

Indian minister says companies must frequently aware users of the rules that prohibit them from sharing such content
Indias flag is seen through a 3D printed Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. — Reuters
India's flag is seen through a 3D printed Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. — Reuters

India’s government has issued warnings to social media giants, including Facebook and YouTube, to prevent the spread of deepfakes and content that contains obscenity and misinformation.

The Modi government demanded that the platforms repeatedly remind users of the country’s local laws restricting them from doing so.

India’s deputy IT minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a meeting held behind closed doors conveyed the warnings, saying that the social networking platforms had not updated their terms and conditions despite 2022 rules that prohibit content that “impersonates another person,” “harmful” to children, or contains obscenity, Reuters reported.

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The development has emerged in the wake of the rising concerns regarding deepfakes — realistic yet fabricated audios and visuals generated using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms trained on online footage — which the minister said India is making rules to address.

He said the companies must raise awareness of the rules by reminding users not to post and share such content whenever they log in, or by issuing reminders frequently.

Otherwise, the top minister added, the platforms will be issued directions forcing them to do so, said the two sources privy to the development. It as a “non-negotiable” demand of the Indian government during the private meeting, the sources quoted the minister as saying.

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Likewise, in a press release, India’s IT ministry stated all platforms had agreed to align their content guidelines with government rules.

However, Facebook and Chandrasekhar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alphabet Inc’s Google, the parent company of YouTube, said in a statement it was committed to responsible AI development and has robust policies and systems to identify and delete such content across all of its products and platforms.

During a virtual summit of G20 nations on Wednesday, Prime Minister Modi called on global leaders to jointly work towards regulating AI and raised concerns over the negative impact of deepfakes on society.

Last year, the Modi government had privately criticised the companies for failing to counter what it described as fake news on their platforms, which it claimed had compelled it to forcefully bring down such content.