Deepfake: China tries to regulate the sector firmly

Regulate to better control? China’s Cyberspace Administration, China’s internet regulator, is concerned about the growing use of deepfake technology to spread false information. In a press release relayed by The Registerthe Chinese government specifies the framework for the application of the new rules.

A regulation more political than technological

The relevant regulation will enter into force on January 10, 2023. The latter aims to “to promote socialist core values, to safeguard national security and social public interests, and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations”. A vast program that is part of the increasing use of deepfakes in recent years to relay modified photographs, videos or sounds. As a reminder, content of the genre is generated from data compiled by artificial intelligence. The system can then reproduce almost perfectly the voice or the face of a person and make him pronounce any sentence.

The regulation stipulates the prohibition of the use of deepfake in order to “to engage in activities prohibited by laws and administrative regulations”. This provision is intended to limit widespread fraud in the country, but could be interpreted broadly to censor politically incorrect content. To use a person’s image with a deepfake, that person must have given explicit permission. Similarly, artificially generated content must be the subject of a warning message intended for Internet users. “The generation of human faces and immersive realistic scenes that generate or significantly alter the content of the information should be prominently marked to avoid confusion or misidentification by the audience”explains the rules.

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A security audit required

Not all uses of deepfake are prohibited, however. A leader in several key technology sectors, Beijing is aware that an outright ban could harm its industry. So creating deepfake content is allowed after “a safety assessment” during “the launch of new products, new applications or new functions with public opinion attributes or social mobilization capabilities”says the regulator.

At the same time, the companies behind these technological products will, as they are already used to, have to collaborate with the regime in Beijing. These new rules should therefore make it possible, according to China’s Cyberspace Administration, to “to promote the healthy development of information services on the Internet and maintain a good ecology of cyberspace”.

Vital regulation for Beijing

According to Emmie Hine of the Oxford Digital Governance Group and Luciano Floridi of the Department of Legal Studies at the University of Bologna (Italy), the regulation of deepfake was necessary, even vital for the Chinese authorities. “For a government that depends on its ability to control the information made available to its citizens, deepfake content poses an existential threat”explain the researchers in nature machine intelligence.

And to specify: “A single fake post can be censored or officially discredited. However, a hypothetical false conspiracy theory supported by digitally faked photographs, videos and documents cannot be countered so easily. Even when content is removed from the internet, it remains in people’s minds.” A new regulation that comes on top of a slew of laws aimed at controlling the Chinese Internet with an iron fist.

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