YouTube is going to start cracking down on AI clones of musicians

YouTube will have two sets of content guidelines for AI-generated deepfakes: a very strict set of rules to protect the platform’s music industry partners, and another, looser set for everyone else.

That’s the explicit distinction laid out today in a company blog post, which goes through the platform’s early thinking about moderating AI-generated content. The basics are fairly simple: YouTube will require creators to begin labeling “realistic” AI-generated content when they’re uploading videos, and that the disclosure requirement is especially important for topics like elections or ongoing conflicts.

The labels will appear in video descriptions, and on top of the videos themselves for sensitive material. There is no specific definition of what YouTube thinks “realistic” means yet; YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon tells us that the company will provide more detailed guidance with examples when the disclosure requirement rolls out next year.

YouTube will require creators to label “realistic” AI-generated content.
Image: YouTube

YouTube says the penalties for not labeling AI-generated content accurately will vary, but could include takedowns and demonetization. But it’s not clear how YouTube will know if an unlabeled video was actually generated by AI — YouTube’s Malon says the platform isinvesting in the tools to help us detect and accurately determine if creators have fulfilled their disclosure requirements when it comes to synthetic or altered content,” but those tools don’t exist yet and the ones that do have notoriously poor track records.

From there, it gets more complicated — vastly more complicated. YouTube will allow people to request removal of videos that “simulate an identifiable individual, including their face or voice” using the existing privacy request form. So if you get deepfaked, there’s a process to follow that may result in that video coming down — but the company says it will “evaluate a variety of factors when evaluating these requests,” including whether the content is parody or satire and whether the individual is a public official or “well-known individual.”

AI labels will appear on videos or in descriptions, depending on the content.
Image: YouTube

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because those are the same sorts of analyses courts do: parody and satire is an important element of the fair use defense in copyright infringement cases, and assessing whether someone is a public figure is an important part of defamation law. But since there’s no specific federal law regulating AI deepfakes, YouTube is making up its own rules to get ahead of the curve — rules which the platform will be able to enforce any way it wants, with no particular transparency or consistency…