China makes it a criminal offense to publish deepfakes or fake news without disclosure

Image: TheGoncas2 / YouTube

China has released a new government policy designed to prevent the spread of fake news and misleading videos created using artificial intelligence, otherwise known as deepfakes. The new rule, reported earlier today by Reuters, bans the publishing of false information or deepfakes online without proper disclosure that the post in question was created with AI or VR technology. Failure to disclose this is now a criminal offense, the Chinese government says.

The rules go into effect on January 1st, 2020, and will be enforced by the Cyberspace Administration of China. “With the adoption of new technologies, such as deepfake, in online video and audio industries, there have been risks in using such content to disrupt social order and violate people’s interests, creating political risks and bringing a negative impact to national security and social stability,” the CAC said in a notice to online video hosting websites on Friday, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s stance is a broad one, and it appears the Chinese government is reserving the right to prosecute both users and image and video hosting services for failing to abide by the rules. But it does mirror similar legislation introduced in the US that is designed to combat deepfakes.

Last month, California became the first US state to criminalize the use of deepfakes in political campaign promotion and advertising. The law, called AB 730 and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, makes it a crime to publish audio, imagery, or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician’s words or actions. California’s law does not use the word deepfake, but it’s clear the AI-manufactured fakes are the primary culprit, along with videos misleadingly edited to frame someone in a negative light.

California’s approach does exclude news media, as well as parody and satire, with the sole aim for now being to prevent the potential damage that deepfake attack ads could cause when used in the run-up to an election. The law applies to candidates within 60 days of an election and it’s designed to expire by 2023 unless explicitly reenacted.

Congress is also in the process of analyzing the potential harm of deepfakes and how best to combat their influence in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The House Intelligence Committee held a hearing on the subject after convening a panel of experts from universities and think tanks to come up with a deepfake strategy with regard to election integrity and security. There are also numerous pieces of legislation moving through Congress at the moment that would require special watermarks over or disclosures around fake or misleading media, as well as criminalization of the creation and distribution of such video.

On the US platform side, Facebook and Twitter are in the process of creating better tools for detecting deepfakes and helping reduce the spread of those videos and imagery across the respective platforms. Twitter this month said it was drafting deepfake policy after a number of high-profile incidents, including a misleadingly edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi going viral, that have highlighted how vulnerable the company’s platform is to misinformation of this variety.

Facebook, which also faced criticism for failing to stop the spread of the Pelosi video, has begun developing technology to detect deepfakes, but it notably has refused to remove such videos in line with its policy on speech. Similarly, Facebook has come under fire for allowing politicians to knowingly lie in advertisements, opening up the future possibility of deepfake political ads in the absence of federal legislation. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company does not want to regulate speech on the platform. Twitter took the opposite stance and announced an outright ban on all political advertising last month.


THAT needs to be done also in The USA

I’m not so sure. I think the scariest thing about deepfakes might be the deniability they provide. The other edge of laws like this is that a corrupt government could declare a real video a deepfake and then prosecute the "offender."

If you have a government this corrupt, you have a whole host of other issues…

We do have a government this corrupt. This is the same government that tried to to imprison an entire ethnic population in WW2 because they might be spies.
This is the same government that experimented on military personnel with drugs in the mid 20th century. This is the same government who caused lifelong (noncombat) medical issues for their personnel in Vietnam and Iraq (‘91) and denied culpability for over a decade each time. It has NOT gotten any better over the years. We may not be China levels of corrupt, but we’re definitely one of the more corrupt and deplorable democratic nations.

Every government is corrupt to a certain degree, which is unfortunately completely normal

it’s not normal.

it never was, and never will be.

It may be the world we live, it’s not "normal". neither acceptable.

Well depends on what you define as normal. When it is pretty much the way it is in most countries, it’s not great, but becomes normal.

I would say it might be normal, but it is absolutely unacceptable.

Yeah, but in China the party gets to tell what’s "fake news", so if they say HK doesn’t even exist (or Tibet), and you post a photo that "yes it does!" you are a criminal. You want to give the administration this kind of power?

Yes, because there is no history of the White House declaring inconvenient news stories fake…

Yes, Daishi, and I am sure you’ve never lied either…

What’s your point? The commenter above is stating something that is likely to happen and therefore problematic. Any government with that kind of power (China especially) is going to be tempted to abuse.

Why "China especially"?

My point is simply that we have real world examples of the current White House and GOP declaring well sourced factual news stories/intelligence reports/impeachment hearing fake on a daily basis. It’s not "likely to happen". It’s happening all around us. But a lot of people here seem to want to pretend that big, bad, scary China is some kind of special and unique case that we should all be afraid.

The US courts have held the current administration to account in numerous instances. They are the last line of defense of liberty.

That’s not going to happen in some other countries.

And given how hard the Republicans in the Senate are working at appointing new judges to the courts (more or less the only thing they are doing now) it won’t happen in the US for long either.

Ya’ll know that this is just gonna be used to combat real news that china doesn’t like, right? Any time a dictatorship criminalizes something that appears to be common sense and would be out of character for them it’s because they found a way to exploit it to further their control.

I would like to be cautiously optimistic that China really is concerned about deepfakes, but I’m not THAT naive.


Definitely agree. The world will become a dangerous place if we don’t do this

China once again leading the world on tech policy!

If you consider monitoring of every page visit, a national firewall against politically inconvenient content, forced technology transfer, and outright copying of American hardware and software and to be "leading the world"… why don’t you just live there?

They have no need to copy from the Americans. What have they even innovated in the last 10 years?! China has their own space station, the US piggy backs off Indian rockets. They have real 5G, the US incapable of copying so they ban them and create fake 5G. Well done folks!

What has America even innovate recently? Absolutely not the smartphone, or reusable rockets, or AI…

If you lived in China and posted this, you would be in jail, because you literally just said fake stats. China doesn’t have a space station, (just orbiting module, that burned up in atmosphere) US does not piggybacks off Indian rockets (US uses American rockets, and only Russian Soyuz to send people to ISS) and they don’t have 5G (you’re thinking of South Korea). Where are you getting your stats from?

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