Deepfake videos in Indian elections, what does it portend?

Here’s how it has kinda evolved:

  • In the early days you had to speak on a stump to connect with your voters.
  • Then you had access to a megaphone to make your voice travel further.
  • If you wrote and published your writings, you could always have help to polish it up, or even have someone ghostwrite it.
  • Then came broadcast video where body language and micro-expressions and subtle cues started to influence perception
  • Then came edited video where the right cuts, the right montage, the right soundtrack started to influence perception

And now, AI deepfakes can learn how you speak and then make you say anything in any language. If you use it for yourself, just to scale yourself, it falls in line with all the other stuff above.

But now it’s also to use it on your opponent. What does that mean for politics? And with end-to-end secure communication that is broadcast to hundreds of millions within seconds without any social oversight or feedback loops, the person physically sitting next to you is going to be literally living in a totally different world than you. For some more time the only thing common between us is going to be air molecules that enter our lungs. Everything else is completely personalized. What does that mean for our ability to reason with each other about things that are important?

When the Delhi BJP IT Cell partnered with political communications firm The Ideaz Factory to create “positive campaigns” using deepfakes to reach different linguistic voter bases, it marked the debut of deepfakes in election campaigns in India. “Deepfake technology has helped us scale campaign efforts like never before,” Neelkant Bakshi, co-incharge of social media and IT for BJP Delhi, tells VICE. “The Haryanvi videos let us convincingly approach the target audience even if the candidate didn’t speak the language of the voter.”

Here’s a fascinating article by Vice that explores this topic in more detail.

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