Deepfake Technology: Navigating the Realm of Synthetic Media

November 30, 2023
Technology Behind Deepfakes

By Anuradha Gandhi and Shantam Sharma


In the dynamic realm of technology, the emergence of deepfake technology[1] has sparked both fascination and concern. The term “deepfake” refers to synthetic media that undergoes digital manipulation to convincingly replace one person’s likeness with another. Leveraging seemingly innocuous techniques from machine learning and AI, such as deep learning and Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)[2], this technology has demonstrated its prowess across various domains. While it offers promise in entertainment, education, art, and activism, it also presents ethical and social challenges that warrant thorough examination.

Technology Behind Deepfakes

Deepfake creation relies on sophisticated technology, primarily the use of GANs. GANs is a machine learning techniques that modify or create images and videos by detecting and learning subjects’ movements and facial expressions from source material. To enhance realism, creators utilize extensive databases of source images, often focusing on public figures, celebrities, or politicians.

The process involves two software components working collaboratively: one creates the fake video, and the other detects signs of forgery making it virtually undetectable. This ‘unsupervised learning’ makes it challenging for other software to identify deepfakes, contributing to the technology’s deceptive capabilities.

Evolution of Deepfakes

The earliest example[3] of manipulated multimedia content occurred in 1860 when a portrait of southern politician John Calhoun was skilfully manipulated by replacing his head with that of US President Abraham Lincoln. In contemporary times, the term “deepfake” first gained prominence in late 2017 when a Reddit[4] user known as “deepfakes” and the community r/deepfakes shared videos featuring celebrities’ faces seamlessly swapped onto different bodies.

While some creations were explicit in nature, non-pornographic content emerged, including humorous videos with actor Nicolas Cage’s face transposed onto various characters movies[5] . Online communities, such as r/SFWdeepfakes, demonstrated the potential of deepfakes beyond explicit content. Members shared non-pornographic deepfakes featuring politicians, celebrities, and other public figures in various scenarios. However, concerns arose as platforms struggled to regulate and control the spread of deepfake pornography.

The landscape of deepfake technology shifted with the introduction of commercial applications. In January 2018, the proprietary desktop application FakeApp[6] was launched, allowing users to easily create and share deepfake videos. Over time, open-source alternatives like Faceswap, command line-based[7] DeepFaceLab, and web-based apps such as emerged, surpassing FakeApp.

Larger companies began incorporating deepfakes into their operations, with corporate training videos utilizing deepfaked avatars and voices. The Japanese AI company DataGrid[8] even created a full body deepfake capable of generating a person from scratch for fashion and apparel purposes. Mobile app giant Momo contributed to the trend with Zao, enabling users to superimpose their faces onto television and movie clips.

Audio deepfakes became a reality, and AI software capable of detecting deepfakes and cloning human voices after a mere 5 seconds of listening time emerged. The launch of Impressions, a mobile deepfake app, marked a significant development, allowing users to create celebrity deepfake videos directly from their mobile phones.

The capabilities of deepfake technology expanded beyond mimicry, venturing into the realm of resurrection. In 2020, Kim Kardashian posted a video featuring her late father, Robert Kardashian, created using deepfake technology. This was a pivotal moment, showcasing the potential for deepfakes to bring deceased individuals back to life. Even iconic figures like Elvis Presley experienced a digital resurrection on America’s Got Talent 17 in 2022, highlighting the profound impact of deepfake technology on pop culture.

What is the status of deepfakes regulation in India and across the world?

The legal landscape surrounding deepfake technology varies across countries, with India, the United States, the European Union, and China each taking distinct approaches.

In India, there is a lack of specific laws targeting deepfakes. Instead, existing legal provisions under the Information Technology Act (2000) are applied, focusing on defamation, explicit material, identity theft, and privacy violations. Additionally, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandate the removal of user generated misinformation and content that impersonates someone else[9] by intermediary platforms within 24 hours[10].

In the United States, recognizing the gravity of the deepfake threat, the government introduced the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act[11]. This legislation aims to assist the Department of Homeland Security with countering deepfake technology, reflecting a proactive stance in addressing the potential harms posed by deepfakes.

The European Union has updated its Code of Practice on Disinformation[12] to combat the spread of disinformation, including that facilitated by deepfakes. Guidelines for establishing an independent network of fact-checkers further emphasize the EU’s commitment to analyzing sources and processes of content creation, reinforcing the importance of transparency in media dissemination.

China has taken an assertive stance against deepfakes by introducing Comprehensive Regulations on Deep Synthesis[13] , specifically targeting the spread of disinformation. This comprehensive regulatory approach aligns with China’s broader efforts to control and combat the narrative.

Way Forward

Moving forward, several key legal measures can be adopted globally to address the challenges posed by deepfake technology:

Responsibility of Social Media Intermediaries: Social media platforms should play a crucial role in combating deepfakes. Developing and implementing technologies to detect and report deepfakes, such as Microsoft’s video authenticator, could be pivotal in curbing the spread of misinformation.
Blockchain-based Deepfake Verification[14] : Implementing blockchain technology for media creation allows individuals to trace the origin and modification history of media content via digital signatures. This can serve as a deterrent, discouraging the creation and dissemination of malicious deepfakes, and enhancing transparency.
Enactment of a Digital India Act: Recognizing the absence of specific regulations in India, the enactment of a Digital India Act with clear and stringent provisions against malicious deepfakes becomes essential. Drawing lessons from China’s comprehensive regulations can guide the formulation of effective legal measures.
Public Awareness and Responsibility: Promoting social awareness about the risks associated with malicious deepfake videos is crucial. Educating the public on responsible media consumption through initiatives like the ‘Pause, Think, and Share’ principle for social media can contribute to mitigating the impact of disinformation.
Implementation of Bletchley Declaration Principles[15] : Aligning with the principles of the Bletchley Declaration, which emphasizes addressing risks and responsibilities associated with frontier AI like deepfakes, can guide the development of a global AI regulatory framework. India, being a signatory, should take a lead role in finalizing and implementing these principles on an international scale.


Deepfake technology stands at a crossroads of immense potential and profound risk. As it continues to evolve, striking a balance between leveraging its positive applications and safeguarding individual privacy becomes imperative. Legal frameworks, international cooperation, and public awareness campaigns are essential components of mitigating the negative consequences of deepfake technology while preserving its potential benefits. The future of deepfakes hinges on how societies navigate this delicate equilibrium, ensuring ethical use and protection against malicious exploitation.

[1] For further reading-
[2] Available at:
[3] Available at:
[4] Available at:
[5] Available at: Haysom, Sam (January 31, 2018). “People Are Using Face-Swapping Tech to Add Nicolas Cage to Random Movies and What Is 2018”
[6] Available at:
[7] A command line-based deepfake refers to a deepfake creation process that is initiated and controlled through a command line interface rather than a graphical interface. This means users interact with the deepfake software by entering text commands into a terminal or command prompt.
[8] Available at:,after%20five%20seconds%20of%20listening
[9] Rule 3(1)(b)(vii): This Rules mandates that social media intermediaries must ensure that the users of their platform do not host any content which impersonates another person. Available at:
[10] Rule 3(2)(b): It requires such content to be taken down within 24 hours of receipt of a complaint against such content. Available at: ibid 1
[11] Available at:
[12] Available at:
[13] The Deep Synthesis Provisions are a set of rules that govern the use of deep synthesis technology (Deepfake) in China Available at:
[14] Patil, U. and Chouragade, Prof.P. (2021) ‘Blockchain based approach for tackling Deepfake Videos’, International Journal of Scientific Research in Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology, pp. 342–347. doi:10.32628/cseit217372.
[15] The declaration, by 28 countries (including India) and the European Union, agreeing to the urgent need to understand and collectively manage potential risks through a new joint global effort to ensure AI is developed and deployed in a safe, responsible way for the benefit of the global community. Read more at-

Related Posts

India sets the deepfake crackdown in motion

Deepfakes and breach of Personal Data – A bigger picture

For more information please contact us at :