policy monitor

Austria – Action plan to fight deepfakes

The Austrian government has published an action plan to fight deepfakes and how to tackle related societal challenges like disinformation and hate speech. It envisages four fields of action: ‘Structures & Processes’, ‘Governance’, ‘Research and Development’ and ‘International Cooperation’. The Austrian government has stressed that in any case the regulation of deep fake videos must take into account the relevant fundamental rights and personal rights, and that particular attention must be paid to the special protection of freedom of expression and artistic freedom.

What: Policy orienting document

Impact score: 3 - policy orienting document

For who: Government, policy makers

URL: https://bmi.gv.at/bmi_documents/2779.pdf



First, the action plan sets out how it was drafted , followed by some prominent definitions regarding deepfakes and the threats to (Austrian) society in the field of security policy, law and technology. Subsequently, the impact on Austria and the objectives (e.g. raising awareness and strengthening the population's ability to verify digital content,…) are briefly mentioned. Most important, however, are the proposed policies that fall into four fields of action (‘Structures & Processes’, ‘Governance’, ‘Research and Development’ and ‘International Cooperation’).

Field of action 1: Structures and Processes

First of all, it is stated that it is necessary to deal with the topic of deepfakes in a focus group on disinformation. This includes making analysing the problems and identifying possible solutions. On top of that, strategic action is also needed, particularly in the areas of: protection of democracy, protection of the individual, national security and technological developments. This should also be combined with the preparation of an annual activity report (with information for the ‘Nationalrat’/Austrian parliament). If deemed necessary, the action plan also foresees in the formation of sub-working groups for a more in-depth content-related approach.

Another important part of this first field of action is the focus on precautions at the government level. Proposed measures in this regard contain the bundling of existing capacities and processes, the further intensification of cooperation and inter-ministerial networking, the increase of capacities in the field of monitoring and screening, raising public officials’ awareness of deepfake technology and coordination with other working groups to ensure continuity of action against hybrid threats (a threat whereby conventional and unconventional, military and non-military activities are used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific political goals). For something to be a hybrid treat, deepfake technology should be used in combination with another hostile activity such as cyber attacks on public and/or economic targets.

Field of action 2: Governance

The roles, responsibilities and competences of state and non-state actors must be defined, taking into account relevant fundamental and human rights. This could be formalised in frameworks for cooperation between all stakeholders. This includes the need for an increased cooperation with and more obligations for online platforms at national and especially at European level.

The focus group on disinformation will prepare analyses on various aspects, such as the legal basis, and include them in its activity report.

Attention is also given to the area of raising awareness among the Austrian population, including the following activities:

  • Strengthen media literacy education in schools and for adults.
  • Sensitize users to a critical approach to media and information - especially online
  • Evaluation of suitable solutions for a better verifiability of online content by the users themselves.

Field of action 3: Research and development

It is stated in the action plan that the combat of deepfakes requires a high level of technical expertise. It therefore states that within the framework of the national and EU security research programs, the topic should be a central research focus.

Furthermore, the relevant stakeholders in administration, business, media and research should develop jointly the conceptual foundations and the technological tools for the rapid detection of threats from deepfakes in Austria.

Existing research work, such as DefalsifAI (A project coordinated by the Austrian Institute of Technology to identify false information with the help of artificial intelligence), is to be further expanded.

Field of action 4: International cooperation

The action plan explicitly states that Austria will continue to play an active role in international cooperation at European and international level, especially in the exchange of experiences, in the creation of international strategies, in the development of voluntary and legally binding regulations, in criminal prosecution and in cooperation projects.

Activities at European level (RAS, Democracy Action Plan) will continue to be supported and Austria will play an active role herein. The goals set up by the European Commission in the area of planned measures in the European Action Plan for Democracy should be actively pursued.