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Legislative Limbo: Confronting the Deepfake Menace in New Zealand

4 April 2024
by Canterbury Legal

What is a deepfake?

A deepfake is essentially where another person’s characteristics have been digitally altered to represent that of someone else. Their use is often tied with deceptive practices or malicious acts and for spreading false information through the use of someone else’s identity.

No longer just the domain of expert digital creators. Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming far more commonplace, with the assistance of AI considerably more people are able to access the technology than ever before. It involves everything from imagery, videos and audio all having the ability to be manipulated in an extremely convincing way.

While this technology presents a great level of concern for most New Zealanders, it appears New Zealand’s legislation is falling woefully behind as this cutting edge technology continues to advance at pace. This often leaves victims with little recourse other than asking online platforms for removal, should they be on the receiving end.

An AI generated image used to depict the rise in deep fake technology.

Despite submissions requesting for immediate inclusion, it appears recent amendments have fallen short of addressing the issue at large in New Zealand. Countries such as Australia and the UK have enacted legislation specifically addressing deepfakes, and the US has introduced bills for addressing AI generated content. However, it appears that legal measures alone may not go far enough, with experts calling for a combination of public education, social media takedowns and technological authentication methods.

These legislative gaps are likely to become even more widespread as the technology continues to take off. It is predicted that over the next 5 years this generative technology will only become even more sophisticated. With deepfake detection technology still playing catch up, it poses some concerning scenarios.

For example, in police investigations where deepfake material may be presented as genuine. This not only extends to visual representations, but also to voice cloning technology that may be used.

It will be interesting to keep track of how this new area of legislation may eventually evolve and develop as New Zealander's come to learn of its potential widespread application.

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