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China releases draft rules on counterfeiting in cyberspace

(Reuters) – China’s cyberspace regulator released draft rules on Friday for content providers that alter facial and voice data, the latest move to crack down on “deepfakes” and shape a cyberspace that promotes Chinese socialist values.

The rules aim to further regulate technologies such as those that use algorithms to generate and modify text, audio, images and video, according to documents posted on the Cyberspace Administration of China website.

Any platform or company that uses deep learning or virtual reality to modify any online content, what the CAC calls “deep synthesis service providers”, will now be required to “adhere to social morals and ethics, adhere to good political leadership”.

The regulations provide that people are protected from identity theft without their consent by deepfakes – images virtually indistinguishable from the original and easily used for manipulation or misinformation.

“When a deep synthesis service provider provides important editing functions for biometric information such as face and human voice, it invites the (provider) to notify and obtain the individual consent of the subject whose personal information are edited”, article 12 of the draft says.

The rules provide for fines of between 10,000 and 100,000 yuan ($1,600 and $16,000) for first-time offenders, but violations can also result in civil and criminal prosecution.

The draft also provides for a user complaints system and mechanisms to prevent the use of deep fakes to spread false information. App stores will be required to suspend or remove deep infringing technology providers if necessary.

“Deep synthesis services are also used by some criminals to produce, copy, publish and disseminate illegal information; slander and degrade the reputation and honor of people; as well as impersonate others to commit fraud and other illegal acts – not only to harm the vital interests of the people, but even endangering national security and social stability,” the draft rules read.

“There is an urgent need to delineate ‘bottom lines’ and ‘red lines’.”

($1 = 6.3617 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kevin Liffey)