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How Deepfakes Could Impact Indian Elections?

How this Deepfakes emerging technology could manipulate public opinion

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Discover how this emerging technology could manipulate public opinion, spread misinformation, and undermine the democratic process.

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The Rise of Deepfakes

Deepfakes are becoming a major concern in today’s world. With the advancement of generative AI, it has become possible to create fake audio and video content that can deceive people. In the context of elections, this technology can be used to spread misinformation and manipulate voter sentiments. By cloning the voice of a political leader and superimposing their face onto a video clip, deepfakes can be shared widely, making it difficult to distinguish between real and fake content.

The Threat to Indian Elections

India is particularly vulnerable to deepfakes, with social media already flooded with fake content targeting politicians and political parties. According to a recent report, India ranks sixth in terms of vulnerability to deepfakes. Politicians and celebrities are especially at risk due to the abundance of their photos, videos, and voice data available in the public domain.

An Example from Madhya Pradesh

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, two doctored video clips of superstar Amitabh Bachchan were circulated during the elections. These videos portrayed Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in a negative light and favored the Congress party’s CM hopeful Kamal Nath. Such deepfakes can have a significant impact on public opinion and sway voters.

The Global Impact of Deepfakes

Deepfake technology is not limited to India. In the United States, it has already been used to create fake films, clone a candidate’s voice, and spread false narratives to undermine the opposition. Similarly, in Argentina, AI-generated images and videos, including deepfakes, have flooded social media and important streets.

The Accessibility of Deepfake Technology

The accessibility and affordability of deepfake technology pose a significant threat to elections. What was once a nascent technology is now easily available to anyone with an internet connection. This allows bad actors to manipulate content on a large scale, disrupting elections and creating an uneven playing field for regional and small parties.

The Role of Generative AI

Generative AI plays a crucial role in the creation of deepfakes. It allows for the large-scale production of content that can be manipulated by those seeking to disrupt elections. Big political parties with ample funding, manpower, and technology can use deepfake technology to spread their propaganda in multiple languages, targeting specific regional audiences.

The Perils of Deepfakes

Deepfakes have raised concerns among election watchdogs worldwide. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has identified the rise of AI and the evolving geopolitical landscape as significant risks to electoral processes. However, there is a lack of awareness among Indian policymakers regarding the threat posed by deepfakes.

The New Front in the Election Battle

Deepfakes have become a new battleground for rival political parties. The BJP has filed complaints regarding deepfake videos related to Madhya Pradesh, accusing the Congress party of being involved. The use of deepfakes in elections can damage institutions, undermine people’s confidence in democracy, and manipulate their free will.

Protecting Elections

Internet companies like Microsoft and Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) have taken steps to protect elections from deepfake manipulation. Microsoft has introduced digital watermarks for media content to track its origin and assist in dealing with cyber threats. Meta requires political ads to disclose their use of AI. However, there is still a lack of well-defined legislation globally to address the threat of deepfakes in elections.

Global Efforts to Regulate AI

Some countries, like the United States and the European Union, have started enacting laws to regulate AI use. The US Congress passed the Protect Elections from Deceptive AI Act, while the European Union is working on the AI Act to classify AI systems based on the risks they pose. In the UK, the recently passed Online Safety Act also regulates AI.

In conclusion, deepfakes pose a significant risk to Indian elections and democracy as a whole. The widespread availability of generative AI technology and the lack of awareness among policymakers make it crucial to address this issue. Efforts from internet companies and the implementation of appropriate legislation are necessary to protect the integrity of elections and ensure a level playing field for all parties involved.

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