Home Tech Indian voters are being bombarded with millions of deepfakes. Political candidates approve

Indian voters are being bombarded with millions of deepfakes. Political candidates approve

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 Indian voters are being bombarded with millions of deepfakes. Political candidates approve

in a suffocating On an April afternoon in Ajmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, local politician Shakti Singh Rathore sat in front of a green screen to record a short video. He seemed nervous. It was the first time they cloned him.

Wearing a crisp white shirt and a saffron ceremonial scarf emblazoned with a lotus flower (the logo of the BJP, the country’s ruling party), Rathore put his palms together and greeted his audience in Hindi. “Namashkar,” she began. “To all my brothers…”

Before he could continue, the director of the shoot entered the scene. Divyendra Singh Jadoun, a 31-year-old bald man with a thick black beard, told Rathore that he moved too much on camera. Jadoun was trying to capture enough audio and video data to build an AI-powered Rathore fake that would convince 300,000 potential voters around Ajmer that they had had a one-on-one conversation with him, but too much movement would break the algorithm. Jadoun told the subject to look directly at the camera and move only his lips. “Start over,” he said.

At Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions, self-taught deepfaker Divyendra Singh Jadoun collects video and audio data from local politicians to translate their speeches into different languages ​​to reach voters. Here, Shakti Singh Rathore’s speech is generated in Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit and Marathi. Video: Nilesh Christopher/Divyendra Singh Jadoun/WIRED

Right now, the world’s largest democracy is going to the polls. Nearly a billion Indians have the right to vote as part of the country’s general election, and deepfakes could play a decisive and potentially divisive role. Indian political parties have exploited AI to warp reality through cheap methods. audio fakes, propaganda imagesand AI parodies. But while the global discourse on deepfakes often focuses on misinformation and other social harms, many Indian politicians are using the technology for a different purpose: reaching voters.

Across the ideological spectrum, they rely on AI to help them navigate the country’s 22 official languages ​​and thousands of regional dialects, and to deliver personalized messages to more remote communities. Although the United States recently made illegal To use AI-generated voices for unsolicited calls, licensed deepfakes have become a $60 million business opportunity in India. More than 50 million AI-generated voice clone calls were made in the two months before the election started in April, and millions more will be made during voting, one of the country’s largest enterprise messaging operators told WIRED. .

Jadoun is the poster child for this burgeoning industry. His company, Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions, is one of many deepfake service providers across India that have emerged to cater to the political class. This election season, Jadoun has run five AI campaigns so far, for which his company has received a total of $55,000. (He charges significantly less than big political consultants: 125,000 rupees ($1,500) to create a digital avatar and 60,000 rupees ($720) for an audio clone.) He has made deepfakes for Prem Singh Tamang, the chief minister of the Himalayan state of Himalayas. Sikkim, and resurrected YS Rajasekhara Reddy, an iconic politician who died in a helicopter crash in 2009, to support his son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, currently chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Jadoun has also created AI-generated propaganda songs for several politicians, including Tamang, a local parliamentary candidate and chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra. “He is our pride,” said a Hindi song about a local politician in Ajmer, with male and female voices set to a cheerful melody. “He has always been impartial.”

Jadoun also creates AI-generated campaign songs, including this one for local politician Ram Chandra Choudhary in Ajmer. Translated into English, the lyrics say: “For Ajmer, he brought a new gift / His name is Ram Chandra / He helps everyone / He was the president of Ajmer Dairy / He has always been impartial / He has Ram in his name / He is ours pride / He is a Congress soldier / Shares public anguish / Son of Ajmer / A guardian of development / Son of Ajmer / True form of development / Fights for the rights of all / Ram Chandra played the clarinet.” Audio: Divyendra Singh Jadoun

While Rathore will not contest elections this year, he is one of more than 18 million BJP volunteers tasked with ensuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government maintains its power. In the past, that would have meant spending months crisscrossing Rajasthan, a desert state about the size of Italy, to talk to voters individually, reminding them how they have benefited from various BJP social programs: pensions, free cooking gas tanks, money cash. Payments for pregnant women. But with the help of Jadoun deepfakes, Rathore’s job has become much easier.

He will spend 15 minutes here speaking on camera about some of the key election issues, while Jadoun asks him questions. But it doesn’t really matter what he says. All Jadoun needs is Rathore’s voice. Once this is done, Jadoun will use the data to generate videos and calls that will go directly to voters’ phones. Instead of a knock on their door or a quick handshake at a rally, they will see or hear Rathore addressing them by his first name and speaking with eerie specificity about the issues that matter most to them and asking them to vote for the BJP. If they ask questions, the AI ​​should respond, in a clear, calm voice that’s almost better than the real Rathore’s rapid accent. Less tech-savvy voters may not even realize they’ve been talking to a machine. Even Rathore admits that he doesn’t know much about AI. But he understands psychology. “Those calls can help undecided voters.”

Rubbing shoulders with politicians is not something new for Jadoun. I used to be one. In 2015, he contested elections in Ajmer as district president of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the youth wing of the Indian National Congress, the once formidable national party that is now the main opposition to Modi’s BJP.

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