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The rise of edited images due to the enhanced capabilities of Photoshop used to be a hot topic online as it sparked controversy by marketing unrealistic beauty standards. Its modern-day equivalent comes in the form of deepfake technology, which poses a bigger problem in comparison.
Deepfake technology involves machine-learning models that utilize deep learning to manipulate images, videos, and even audio. In the worst case, the use of deepfakes can result in disinformation, copyright infringement, identity theft, or intellectual property rights violations. While some netizens have used deepfakes for harmless fun like internet memes, some have taken to transferring the faces of celebrities onto those from adult film industries without their consent. It’s no wonder netizens have been alarmed by the rise of deepfakes, and why countries like China have taken a stand against it.
What Threats Does Deepfake Technology Pose?
People who don’t spend much time online likely don’t have to worry about deepfakes. Unless you’re famous on the Internet, you’ll mostly encounter deepfake memes of notable figures saying and doing things that are completely out of character. Internet memes that utilize deepfake technology are the most harmless. However, with deepfakes, it can be a challenge to figure out what is real and what isn’t.
Nowadays, people can use deepfakes to pretend to be another person online, which leads to all sorts of opportunities for fraud and identity theft. We’ve officially reached an age where people can pretend to be someone else and steal sensitive information using deepfake technology.
What are China’s New Regulations on Deepfake Technology?
The keyword when it comes to considering the overall effect of deepfakes is “disruptive.” These are some of the most disruptive forms of media to exist today. It’s no wonder China was quick to push for tight regulations against deepfakes, after the mass censorship that occurred when President Xi Jinping was likened to Winnie the Pooh through internet memes. While the right to free speech is an essential part of a thriving society, these memes are nothing compared to the potential of deepfakes concerning cybercrime.
Thus, on January 10, 2023, China implemented new rules regulating deepfakes or any synthetic content, especially those that alter facial and voice data. This makes China the first to directly pass laws against deepfake tech. The regulation entails that anything made using deep synthesis technology (deepfake) must be labeled accordingly, which means you should see labels on any image or video that uses deepfakes. Those who use deepfakes without the necessary labels can face a prison term.
The Global Reaction to China’s New Regulations
China tends to be heavy-handed on matters of censorship, but the rest of the world isn’t far behind in enforcing rules and regulations against deepfake content. The European Union proposed potential measures for AI when they published the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence.
Most countries already utilize existing laws and regulations to curb the growth of disruptive media and tech. While there are currently no laws outside of China’s provisions that go directly against deepfakes, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world follows suit.
As far as criticism goes, there will always be those who criticize China’s forceful stance on censorship as this tends to go hand-in-hand with corruption and misinformation. That said, the law against deepfakes is seen as more of a step in the right direction.
Should Other Countries Implement Similar Regulations?
Whether countries should implement similar regulations or not depends on the laws and regulations each country currently has. Not everyone sees China’s more forceful approach in a positive light either. Implementing restrictions is a good idea when it comes to deepfakes, but like any other type of regulation, getting carried away can cause unintended consequences.
A Strangely Opportunistic Future for AI
No one is surprised that China is the first country to push against deepfake technology, and they likely will not be the last. The rise of deepfakes shows a strangely opportunistic future for artificial intelligence where people are finding more and more ways to innovate and potentially disrupt society. Overall, it’s a strange and exciting time for everyone involved, as AI has only begun to show its hand.