At a glance: On January 28, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) issued a draft law regulating the use of deep synthesis technology, referring to the creation of machine-generated or edited digital content, including text, images, audio, video and virtual scenes. If passed, the legislation would require providers and users of such content to:
- Respect social norms and ethics, and adhere to the correct political direction (of the Chinese Communist Party)
- Ensure content does not endanger national security, undermine social stability, spread false information or violate the rights and interests of others
- Obtain the consent of individuals when biometric information such as faces and voices are edited
- Include disclosures for deep synthesis content to alert the public of its nature; incorporate provenance markers such that the origins of content can be traced
MERICS comment: The draft law reflects China’s proactive approach to regulating new technologies. For Chinese authorities, the priority is to maintain control over the public discourse and maintain its censorship regime. But there are also practical reasons why regulation is necessary. Digitally manipulated media can be used for fraudulent activity or to spread disinformation. The number of deepfake videos, whereby a person’s face, body or voice has been digitally altered so that they appear to be someone else, is growing exponentially online. Calls for restrictions on the use of such technology are increasing in the US, UK and EU but have not yet resulted in new technology regulations.
To some degree, China’s draft law could reduce the chance of fake content being used by malicious netizens or competitors to harm the image of foreign companies, a distinct possibility given the recurrence of popular boycotts against foreign firms in China. But it also places an additional burden on firms, both local and foreign, to carefully manage their use of machine-generated content. Such content can be applied in a wide range of scenarios, including to produce text for news articles, customize advertisements, or operate a customer service bot. The accidental creation of sensitive or harmful content could result in fines, demands for compensation or severe damage to a company’s reputation.
Article: Provisions on the Administration of Deep Synthesis Internet Information Services (Draft for Comments) (国家互联网信息办公室关于《互联网信息服务深度合成管理规定（征求意见稿）》公开征求意见的通知) (Link)
Issuing body: CAC
Date: January 28, 2022