The Centre on Tuesday issued an advisory to social media companies to remove deepfake videos from their platforms within 36 hours of receiving a complaint, saying that such content violates the law and harms women in particular.

The advisory came after a deepfake video of actor Rashmika Mandanna was widely shared on social media and caused concern among users.

Deepfake is a technique for manipulating audio and video with the help of artificial intelligence software to show people saying or doing things that they never said or did. The content is made to appear as realistic as possible and is usually used with malicious intent.

Deepfake content poses a new threat to an online ecosystem that already teems with fake photos created through editing software as well as misinformation and disinformation.

In the video, Mandanna’s face has been morphed into a video where a woman can be seen entering an elevator. However, the original video featured a British-Indian social media influencer, Zara Patel, and had been uploaded to social media platform Instagram in October.

On Tuesday, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information and Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that deepfakes are a major violation of law and particularly harm women.

“It is a legal obligation for online platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation by any user under the Information Technology (IT) rules, 2021,” Chandrasekhar said. “They are further mandated to remove such content within 36 hours upon receiving a report from either a user or government authority.”

If social media platforms fail to comply with this requirement, the aggrieved individuals are empowered to sue them under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. “It is imperative that platforms take proactive measures to combat this threat,” he said.

This is the second advisory issued by the ministry within the last six months asking online platforms to take decisive actions against the spread of deepfakes, Chandrasekhar said.

The Centre has also asked social media platforms to exercise due diligence to identify misinformation and deepfakes.

On Monday, Mandanna said that the deepfake video is “extremely scary” and the issue of identity theft needs to be addressed with urgency.

“Something like this is honestly, extremely scary not only for me, but also for each one of us who today is vulnerable to so much harm because of how technology is being misused,” the actor has said in a social media post. “Today, as a woman and as an actor, I am thankful for my family, friends and well wishers who are my protection and support system. But if this happened to me when I was in school or college, I genuinely can’t imagine how could I ever tackle this.”

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