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China unleashes state power to tackle deepfakes

China has announced an extensive set of rules to keep the so-called deepfakes in check.

The regulations issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) will go into effect from 10 January next year and ban deepfakes that impersonate someone else without permission.

New rules aim to prevent people from slander and fraud but also ban “deep synthesis service providers” from creating content that goes against China’s national interests or its “socialist” values.

Service providers will have to clearly mark content that mimics humans or otherwise tampers with facial and vocal data. The CAC said it was necessary “to avoid public confusion or misidentification.”

It also said that new rules are intended to promote the industry’s healthy development and self-regulation.

Deepfakes are hardly distinguishable from the original images and can be used to misinform and manipulate, which is a global concern.

The Chinese government is also suspicious of the ease deepfakes can be generated and spread, fearing the technology could be used to foster dissent or promote ideas that stray from the official Communist Party line.

It might explain why China moved much quicker to regulate deep synthesis technology than the US or the EU, where most deepfake regulation comes from private platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Both have said they would label or remove the content contradicting their policies.

On the governmental level, the Deepfakes Accountability Act has been under consideration in the US Congress since 2019. It seeks to prevent “unauthorized digital recreations of people” but has been criticized as difficult to enforce.

Several states also have rules that focus on deepfake pornography and the technology’s role in election disinformation.

Deepfake regulation is even more limited in the EU. The European Parliament has recently amended the EU’s Digital Services Act to require providers to label deepfake content. However, the amendments, due to take effect in 2023, focus solely on advertising.

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