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Delhi HC directs EC to decide representation on use of deepfake tech in poll campaigns

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Election Commission (EC) to decide the representation over the use of deepfake technologies in the political campaign for the ongoing elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim.
The directive assumes significance amid the controversy around an alleged deepfake video of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in which he is purportedly heard saying that the BJP stands against reservations in the country.
A bench, led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan, and also comprising Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, asked the Election Commission to decide the representation by Monday, keeping in view the urgency of the matter.
The court, while disposing of the plea, clarified that it cannot pass a direction in the middle of the elections, adding that the poll panel will act and examine the issue.
The court also asked the petitioner to file a comprehensive representation to the EC over the course of the day.
The plea, moved by an organisation named Lawyer Voice, stated that the utilisation of deepfake technologies, along with the dissemination of misinformation on social media platforms and the internet, directly and significantly undermines the possibility of a free and fair election.
Plea also sought direction to social media intermediaries, including Google, Meta (Formerly Facebook) and X Corp (formerly Twitter), to take down and block Deepfake content/ concerning political candidates/ representatives/leaders and/or public figures on their respective social media platforms until the declaration of the results of the General Elections on June 4, 2024.
The plea further stated that several international organisations and countries have similarly observed the 'troubling potential' of deepfake technologies for free and fair elections.
"For instance, political parties in the European Union have entered into a voluntary code of conduct under the EU charter on fair campaigning, where they have committed to refraining from the usage of deepfake technologies during the elections to be held between 6th June to 9th June 2024," the plea noted.
Appearing for petitioner, senior advocate Jayant Mehta submitted that this rapid dissemination of deepfake content concerning political representatives or leaders or public figures is uniquely dangerous in two ways.
Firstly, this would mean that the outcome or result of an election may be manipulated by third parties by misleading the general public, thereby infringing on their right to choose their political representatives freely, the counsel said.
The existence of this unregulated technology would also mean that the electorate is unable to hold their representatives accountable, if they are not able to differentiate between authentic and falsified words and actions.
"In this manner, the existence and usage of deepfake technologies threatens the very foundation of a free and fair election," the plea stated.
The existing statutory framework under both civil and criminal law is fairly insufficient in order to address the harms of deepfake technologies, it read.

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