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Indian Express

28-October-2023

1) Rising Concerns of Political Deep Fakes

Context:

  • The problem of political disinformation, especially deepfakes, has drawn a lot of attention as India’s elections draw near.
  • Artificial intelligence is used in deep fakes, which are images, movies, and voices that appear real but are actually created by the faker. These sights and sounds have the ability to trick and influence users.

What is Deepfake?

  • Deepfakes refer to synthetic media or manipulated content created using deep learning algorithms, specifically generative adversarial networks (GANs).
  • Deepfakes involve altering or replacing the appearance or voice of a person in a video, audio clip, or image to make it seem like they are saying or doing something they never actually did. The term “deepfake” is a combination of “deep learning” and “fake.
  • Deepfake technology utilizes AI techniques to analyze and learn from large datasets of real audio and video footage of a person.

Proposed Solution

  • The recommended countermeasure by the central government to combat political deepfakes is based on Rule 4(2) Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines 2021.
  • According to this regulation, major social media messaging companies ought to be able to identify who the “first originator of the information” is on their platforms.
  • Court orders or government action can be used to obtain originator information.

Privacy Concerns:

  • This provision primarily targets end-to-end encrypted platforms, such as WhatsApp.
  • Users’ privacy is protected by end-to-end encryption, which makes sure that only the sender and recipient can access the message content.
  • Law enforcement organizations, however, face difficulties because they are unable to access messages.
  • In order to deter crime, the proposal calls for giving each resident a “movement tag,” which would trace their every step when they leave their home.
  • When such information is gathered and made available to the government, privacy issues are a concern.

Potential Misuse

  • Rule 4(2) enumerates a number of justifications for putting the clause into effect, including threats to India’s sovereignty, security, public order, and sexual offenses carrying a sentence longer than five years.
  • But there is still room for interpretation, particularly when it comes to “public order,” which can be used in a variety of contexts.
  • Monitoring encrypted messages for small-scale problems could be considered an overly intrusive practice.
  • The rule’s definition of the “first originator” of a message is still vague, raising concerns about its application and user consequences.
  • People who cut and paste existing messages may unintentionally start a new trend of “new originators.”
  • In addition, in order to prevent some possible miscreants, traceability requires the maintenance of logs of the origin of each communication, jeopardizing the privacy of all messaging users.

The Potential Floodgate of Message Traceability

  • If Rule 4(2) is put into effect, it may unleash a torrent of communication traceability, compromising users’ privacy and perhaps undermining the goal of discouraging and punishing individuals who spread false information about politics.

Way Forward:

  • In combating political deepfakes and false information, the government needs to think about reasonable measures that preserve users’ privacy and basic rights.

In the digital age, striking a balance between the necessity to suppress false information and the defense of personal privacy continues to be extremely difficult.

2) Politicization of Bureaucracy

Context:

  • To guarantee the impartiality of elections in India, the Election Commission has stepped in. The cabinet secretary was instructed to put an end to the “Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra” in the five states that have elections coming up.
  • The administration had earlier caused controversy and charges of politicizing the bureaucracy by proposing senior bureaucrats as “rath prabharis” for the yatra, which was intended to highlight government achievements.

What is politicization of bureaucracy?

·      Politicization of bureaucracy in India refers to the influence of political interests and pressures on the functioning and decisions of civil servants.

·      In simple terms, instead of serving the public and sticking to the rules, some bureaucrats might favor political leaders or parties.

 

What can be the possible effects of politicization of bureaucracy?

·      Loss of Neutrality: Bureaucrats are supposed to be neutral. When they favor a political group, they might not treat everyone equally.

·      Inefficiency: Decision-making can be based on what’s politically beneficial rather than what’s good for the public. This can slow things down and lead to poor choices.

·      Loss of Public Trust: People might feel that bureaucrats aren’t working for their benefit but for political gains. This can make people lose faith in the system.

·      Corruption: Mixing politics and bureaucracy can sometimes lead to corrupt practices, where power and money change hands improperly.

·      Hampers Long-Term Development: Political interests can be short-sighted. If bureaucrats cater to these, the country’s long-term growth might suffer.

 

What should be done to avoid politicization of bureaucracy?

·      Stronger Oversight: Have independent agencies that can monitor and check the actions of bureaucrats. These agencies should ensure that rules are being followed.

·      Transparent Processes: If people can see how decisions are made, it’s harder for politics to unduly influence the process. Open and clear methods are the key.

·      Training and Awareness: Bureaucrats should be trained to understand the importance of neutrality and the dangers of political influence.

·      Protection for Whistleblowers: People who speak out against wrong practices should be protected so they aren’t afraid to come forward.

·      Merit-based Appointments: Instead of positions being filled due to political connections, they should be based on skill and capability.

·      Regular Rotation of Officers: Moving bureaucrats to new posts regularly can help prevent them from developing too close ties with local political figures.

  • Strengthening civil society: Civil society organizations can play a crucial role in holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable.

Way Forward:

  • While the Election Commission’s intervention regarding the yatra is a positive step, it remains important to raise concerns about the selective actions of government agencies, which may undermine the fairness and impartiality of elections.
  • Hence maintaining a level playing field is essential for the democratic process in India.

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