Deep Fakes & AI In General Elections: Is India Prepared?

Deep Fakes & AI In General Elections: Is India Prepared?

In the midst of India's General Elections, a blend of Artificial Intelligence and deep fake technology emerges, reshaping political campaigning. Divyendra Singh Jadoun, known as the "Indian Deep Faker," grapples with ethical challenges amid surging demands for manipulated videos. The rise of AI-driven misinformation poses significant concerns for voter manipulation.

As we are in the thick of the biggest elections in the world, the Indian General Elections, a new frontier in political campaigning is slowly emerging, marked by the fusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep fake technology. Even as conventional strategies like social media outreach and rallies have long dominated the political landscape, tech experts predict a paradigm shift driven by sophisticated AI tools.

Deep fake experts, including Divyendra Singh Jadoun, colloquially known as the "Indian Deep Faker," report a surge in political requests for manipulating videos. However, not all inquiries exhibit ethical integrity, occasionally veering into dubious territory.

The Indian Deep Faker has been in the AI realm for a while now and is well-versed in the challenges along his path. So much so that to take up projects during the elections, Jaduon and the other Deep Fakers nationwide decided to formulate and launch their manifesto to avoid unethical practices.

“We had to bring up our own set of regulations because the kinds of vicious requests we were getting were terrible. Some politicians via their representatives were even asking us to swap faces in an explicit video and put up a rival politician’s face instead,” narrates Jaduon. Deep fakes majorly work under three key features: Voice cloning, face swapping, and AI caller chatbots.

While the voters were already faced with challenges in dealing with misinformation, Deep Fake videos and AI-generated content have just increased the problems for the citizens. Somewhere along the line, it has made misinformation appear more believable and alive. AI has advanced to the extent that misinformation churned out through it might have a known face and would talk and interact with its audience just as a real person would. It is more complicated to detect and even more challenging to regulate.

As per a recent survey by Mcafee- a global company dealing with online protection- there is a rising concern about deep fake and AI-generated videos among Indians. The survey shows that there has been a worryingly large no. of Indians who have substantial exposure to such fake content over some medium or other, a number put by experts at 75%. It is of grave concern because over 31% of the survey respondents believe such videos can potentially sway the election results.

Jaduon started alone and now has a team of nine as his workload has increased. He runs a workshop in his hometown of Pushkar, where his base is. His company is called Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions. Most recently, as said by Jaduon, his work has been for multiple parties where he has been given the responsibility to create AI-Generated videos that would be used by them to court voters.

In the past few months, several videos by multiple Indian political parties have surfaced where leaders have been seen declaring points from their manifestos and appealing to the citizens to vote for their party. Identifying a deepfake video from a normal person watching it would be almost impossible. Utmost care is taken of minute details like the lip-sync, body language and posture of the leader to make it appear genuine and authentic to the average eye.

In Maharashtra, Deep Fake has taken a different route altogether. AI-Generated songs are being created and used in campaigns. “These songs have been created without singers, composers, or even lyricists. And the whole song is in Marathi, the local language. The song seems like an original but is completely AI-generated. It saves the parties a lot of costs and expedites the campaign process”,” narrated Jaduon as he showed the reporter an AI-generated song.

As a country, we are still struggling with digital literacy. As per recent government data, digital literacy in the country has reached only 38% of households. With deep fake videos, it would not be wrong to assume that it will be easier for the voters to be confused, especially in rural India, where digital literacy goes down to 25%. Currently, residents of rural areas comprise over 60% of the total population.

With the rise of AI-generated content, there has been an equal spike in personalising the content for individuals. Parties are now experimenting with AI-generated videos of senior and famous leaders. This helps create a different type of personalised interaction with workers at the grassroots level.

In addition to deep fake videos, AI experts in the country are working on virtual AI chatbots that would call people to ask about their problems with the local administration and answer their queries. Additionally, information about various government schemes can be disseminated quickly.

While there are no as yet for the usage of AI, it would not be incorrect to say that future election results will be highly influenced by AI and how it is used.

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