Deepfakes: The Legal Implications




Deepfakes, Artificial Intelligence, Regulations, Ethics, Detection


The development of deepfakes began in 2017, when a software developer on the Reddit online platform began posting his creations in which he swapped the faces of Hollywood celebrities onto the faces of adult film artists, while in 2018, the comedic actor Jordan Peele posted a deepfake video of former U.S. President Obama insulting former U.S. President Trump and warning of the dangers of deepfake media. With the viral use of deepfakes by 2019, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee began hearings on the potential threats to U.S. security posed by deepfakes. Unfortunately, deepfakes have become even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. With easy accessibility to the applications of deepfakes, its usage has increased drastically over the last five years. Deepfakes are now designed to harass, intimidate, degrade, and threaten people and often leads to the creation and dissemination of misinformation as well as creating confusion about important state and non-state issues. A deepfake may also breach IP rights e.g., by unlawfully exploiting a specific line, trademark or label. Furthermore, deepfakes may cause more severe problems such as violation of the human rights, right of privacy, personal data protection rights apart from the copyright infringements. While just a few governments have approved AI regulations, the majority have not due to concerns around the freedom of speech. And while most online platforms such as YouTube have implemented a number of legal mechanisms to control the content posted on their platforms, it remains a time consuming and costly affair. A major challenge is that deep fakes often remain indetectable by the unaided human eye, which lead to the development by governments and private platform to develop deep-fake detecting technologies and regulations around their usage. This paper seeks to discuss the legal and ethical implications and responsibilities of the use of  deepfake technologies as well as to highlight the various social and legal challenges which both regulators and the society face while considering the potential role of online content dissemination platforms and governments in addressing deep fakes.

Author Biography

Trishana Ramluckan, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dr Trishana Ramluckan is the Research Manager at Educor Holdings and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Law. Prior to this she was Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Law and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Graduate School of Business at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is a member of the IFIP working group on ICT Uses in Peace and War and served as an Academic Advocate for ISACA.  In 2017 she graduated with a Doctor of Administration specialising in IT and Public Governance and in 2020 she was listed as in the Top 50 Women in Cybersecurity in Africa. Her current research areas include Cyber Law and Information Technology Governance