Indian Voters Are Being Bombarded with Millions of Deepfakes. Political Candidates Agree - Latest Global News

Indian Voters Are Being Bombarded with Millions of Deepfakes. Political Candidates Agree

To suffocation On April afternoon in Ajmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan, local politician Shakti Singh Rathore sat down in front of a green screen to shoot a short video. He looked nervous. It was the first time he was cloned.

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

Before he could continue, the director entered the frame. Divyendra Singh Jadoun, a 31-year-old with a bald head and a thick black beard, told Rathore he moves too much in front of the camera. Jadoun tried to capture enough audio and video data to create an AI deepfake of Rathore that would convince 300,000 potential voters around Ajmer that they had had a personalized conversation with him – but excessive movement would trigger the algorithm destroy. Jadoun asked his subject to look directly into the camera and only move his lips. “Start again,” he said.

At Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions, self-taught deepfaker Divyendra Singh Jadoun collects video and audio data from local politicians to translate their voter appeal speeches into different languages. 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 are eligible to vote in the country’s general elections, and deepfakes could play a crucial and potentially divisive role. India’s political parties have exploited AI to distort reality through cheap audio fakes, propaganda images and AI parodies. But while the global discourse on deepfakes often focuses on misinformation, disinformation and other societal harms, many Indian politicians are using the technology for a different purpose: voter canvassing.

Across the ideological spectrum, they rely on AI to navigate the country’s 22 official languages ​​and thousands of regional dialects and deliver personalized messages to communities further afield. While the US recently banned the use of AI-generated voices for unwanted calls, in India, sanctioned deepfakes have become a $60 million business opportunity. More than 50 million AI-generated voice clone calls were made in the two months leading up to the start of the election in April — and millions more will be made during voting, one of the country’s largest business messaging providers told WIRED.

Jadoun is the figurehead of this emerging industry. His company, Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions, is one of many deepfake service providers across India that target the political class. So far this election season, Jadoun has run five AI campaigns, for which his company has received a total of $55,000. (He charges significantly less than the big political consultants – 125,000 rupees [$1,500] to create a digital avatar, and 60,000 rupees [$720] for an audio clone.) He has created deepfakes for Prem Singh Tamang, the chief minister of the Himalayan state of Sikkim, and revived YS Rajasekhara Reddy, a famous politician who died in a helicopter crash in 2009, for 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 the chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra. “He is our pride,” went a song in Hindi about a local politician in Ajmer, with male and female voices set to a lilting tune. “He was always impartial.”

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

Although Rathore is not running for election this year, he is one of more than 18 million BJP volunteers tasked with ensuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government retains power. In the past, that would have meant spending months crisscrossing Rajasthan, a desert state about the size of Italy, talking to individual voters and reminding them how they have benefited from various BJP welfare programs – pensions, free ones Tanks for cooking gas, cash payments for pregnant women. But with the help of Jadoun’s deepfakes, Rathore’s job has become much easier.

Here he will speak on camera for 15 minutes 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 that’s done, Jadoun will use the data to generate videos and calls that 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 name and speaking with uncanny specificity about the issues that matter most to them, urging them to vote for the BJP. When they ask questions, the AI ​​should answer – in a clear and calm voice, almost better than the real Rathore’s fast, drawling voice. Less tech-savvy voters may not even realize they’ve spoken to a machine. Even Rathore admits that he doesn’t know much about AI. But he understands psychology. “Such calls can help swing voters.”

Brush your shoulders too Politicians are nothing new for Jadoun. He was one once. In 2015, he stood for election 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 now represents the main opposition to Modi’s BJP.

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