China is increasingly cracking down on illegal deepfakes – fake digital representations of people in image, video or audio formats created using artificial intelligence for the purpose of deception. The counterfeiter usually collects facial or body data of a person in the form of images and uploads them to an AI algorithm. This processes the information and overlays it on a model so that the likeness of the person appears on the model.
Deepfakes are now used creatively not only in education, science, and art, but also by cybercriminals for the fraudulent purpose of manipulation. For example, deepfake videos have well-known personalities spread false information (fake news) to trigger certain reactions in viewers.
If a person’s personal facial or bodily data is used publicly without authorization during content creation, deepfakes violate privacy and thus data protection. Copyright holders could use copyright law to claim unauthorized modification of original content. Affected individuals may obtain remedies based on civil rights, and the unauthorized use of a citizen’s personal information may even implicate the violator in a crime.
However, the right to defend oneself after the fact is far less critical than preventing the misuse of Deepfake through strict regulatory measures upstream, as China would like. For example, the Cyberspace Administration of China has ordered eleven Chinese companies to undergo security assessments under the Cyber Security Law and other regulations because of their audio social apps and use of Deepfake. To prevent and crack down on the outflow of personal data for illegal use by Deepfake, the upcoming Personal Information Protection Law and Data Security Law will bring stricter compliance requirements for such companies that collect and process personal data. Companies that use deepfakes and process related data must brace themselves for stricter and more frequent inspections by the relevant Chinese authorities.