Home INDIA Dead Leaders “Rise” In Tamil Nadu, As Deepfake Tools Warp Poll Campaign

Dead Leaders “Rise” In Tamil Nadu, As Deepfake Tools Warp Poll Campaign

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Dead leaders 'rise' in Tamil Nadu as Deepfake Tools Warp Poll campaign takes place

Death has not extinguished the decades-long rivalry between two Indian leaders: both have now seemingly risen from the grave in digital form to rally their supporters ahead of national elections.

Political parties use powerful artificial intelligence tools to create deepfakes, reproducing famous faces and voices in ways that often appear authentic.

Both the government and campaigners have warned that the proliferation of such tools poses a dangerous and growing threat to the integrity of India’s elections.

With the six-week general election starting on April 19, so-called ‘ghost appearances’ – the use of dead leaders in videos – have become a popular method of campaigning in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Actress turned politician J Jayalalithaa died in 2016, but she was heard in a voice message that was highly critical of the state’s current ruling party, once led by arch-rival M Karunanidhi.

“We have a corrupt and useless state government,” her digital avatar says. “Stay with me… we are for the people.”

Karunanidhi died in 2018 but has appeared in AI-generated videos – clad in his trademark black sunglasses – praising his son MK Stalin, the state’s current chief minister.

Recycling “highly charismatic” speakers offered a new way to grab attention, said Senthil Nayagam, founder of Chennai-based company Muonium, which created the AI ​​video posing as Karunanidhi.

Resurrecting dead leaders is also a cost-effective way of campaigning compared to traditional rallies, which are time-consuming to organize and expensive to host for voters accustomed to a grand spectacle.

“Attracting crowds is difficult,” Nayagam told AFP. “And how often can you do a laser or drone show?”

‘Very thin line’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an enthusiastic early adopter of technology in election campaigns.

In 2014, the year he came to power, the party expanded Modi’s campaign reach by using 3D projections of the leader to make him appear virtually at rallies.

But harnessing technology that can clone a politician’s voice and create videos that appear so real that voters struggle to distinguish reality from fiction has naturally raised concerns.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the communications minister, said in November that deepfakes “pose a serious threat to democracy and social institutions.”

AI creator Divyendra Jadoun said he had received a “huge wave” of requests for content from his company, The Indian Deepfaker.

“There is a huge risk in the upcoming elections, and I am quite sure that many people will use it for unethical activities,” the 30-year-old said.

Jadoun’s repertoire includes voice cloning, chatbots and mass distribution of finished products via WhatsApp messages, sharing content instantly with up to 400,000 people for 100,000 rupees ($1,200).

He insisted he turned down offers he didn’t agree with, but said it was a “very fine line” to determine whether or not a request for his services was unethical.

“Sometimes even we get confused,” he added.

Jadoun said the rapidly advancing technology was little understood by a “large portion of the country,” and AI products were seen as true by many.

“We just tend to fact-check videos that don’t fit our preconceived notions,” he warned.

‘Threat to democracy’

Most AI-generated campaign material to date has been used to ridicule rivals, mainly through songs.

This week, a leader of the BJP’s youth wing posted an AI-generated video of Arvind Kejriwal, a leading opponent of Prime Minister Modi who was arrested last month in a corruption charge.

It shows him behind bars, strumming a guitar and singing a verse from a popular Bollywood song: “Forget me, because you have to live without me now.”

Elsewhere, digitally edited videos claim to show lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, one of India’s most prominent Muslim politicians, singing Hindu devotional songs.

A caption alongside the video on Facebook jokes that “anything is possible” if BJP wins again.

Joyojeet Pal, an expert on the role of technology in democracy from the University of Michigan, said that ridiculing a political opponent was a more effective campaign tool than calling him “a thug or a crook.”

Mocking opponents in political cartoons is an age-old tactic, but Pal warned that AI-generated images can easily be misinterpreted as real.

“It’s a threat to what we can and can’t believe,” he said. “It is a threat to democracy as a whole.”

(This story has not been edited by WhatsNew2Day staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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