Draft bill on 'deepfake' crimes sent to Cabinet for review

11/17/2021 10:32 PM
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Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only
Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Nov. 17 (CNA) A draft amendment to the Criminal Code that would address crimes involving so-called "deepfakes" has been sent to the Cabinet for review ahead of being passed to the Legislature, the Ministry of Justice announced Wednesday.

The legislative action comes in the wake of the arrest in October of a male Taiwanese Youtuber suspected of creating and selling pornographic videos that were digitally altered to include likenesses of 100 famous politicians.

In a statement, the ministry said that discussions had been held from March onwards with legal scholars, judges, prosecutors and lawyers on the draft amendment, which would tackle offenses related to the dissemination of private videos that include sexual images.

The discussions also covered the technological aspects of deepfakes, the ministry said, in particular the sophisticated machine-learning techniques used to produce seemingly realistic manipulated video and other forms of media.

In the draft bill, the chapter of "Offenses Against Privacy" in the Criminal Code will be renamed to highlight the inclusion of proposed new articles relating to the dissemination of real or fake videos or other digitally created content.

The ministry is also proposing heavier punishments through an amendment to the current Article 315-1, which lists peeping at, eavesdropping on or recording "other's non-public activities, speeches, talks, or the private part of the body" as offenses.

The draft bill would add secretly recording other people's sexual activities to the article, which could lead to a prison sentence of four and a half years, while offenders found to have distributed such recorded content could face five years in jail.

One of the three articles the ministry plans to add to the Criminal Code relates to the offence of disseminating, broadcasting or giving others access to secret recordings of people engaging in sexual activities without consent of the recorded individuals.

The Ministry of Justice's head prosecutor Lin Ying-tzu (林映姿) told reporters that this would cover the dissemination homemade recordings of sexual activities without first getting the consent of all participants in the recording.

The Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Justice's head prosecutor Lin Ying-tzu. CNA photo Nov. 17, 2021

Another of the proposed articles focuses on the production and distribution of pornographic deepfakes involving other peoples' sexual activities.

Offenses under this article would come with a maximum jail term of five years, while the selling of such materials could lead to a prison sentence up to seven years.

This article, in practice, will cover the use of deepfake technology to create pornography that is altered using existing images of celebrities to make it look like it they are actually in the video.

Meanwhile, the other new article in the draft bill will cover offenses related to the production, distribution and sale of non-pornographic deepfakes.

For example, people who produce fake videos of politicians making a comment or speech they did not actually make may fall foul of the law under this proposed article, Lin said.

If such videos are made or distributed ahead of elections, offenders may also violate the Civil Servants Election And Recall Act, she added.

However, not all deepfake video makers would be considered law breakers, Lin said, who noted that such technology was widely used in the film industry.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Kay Liu)

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