Deepfakes enter Indian election campaigns

Deepfake online videos are burgeoning as tools and applications to make fictional content gets cheaper, lowering barriers for non-experts to make them.

Updated - December 03, 2021 08:31 am IST

Published - February 21, 2020 04:28 pm IST

A representative image of deception brought on by DeepFakes

A representative image of deception brought on by DeepFakes

A day before Delhi elections , two videos of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Delhi unit President Manoj Tiwari urging citizens to vote for BJP, in english and haryanvi, were sent to 15 million voters via 5800 WhatsApp groups. The videos were deepfakes, digital media firm Vice reported.

In the deepfake english video, Mr. Tiwari is seen criticising his political opponent Arvind Kejriwal and asking voters to "please press the lotus button on 8th February to form Modi-led government."

What is Deepfake and how is it made?

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have enabled computer systems to create synthetic videos, a.k.a. deepfakes.

A deepfake video can show a person saying or doing something that they never said or did. An AI algorithm is taught, using deep learning, to manipulate actual video and audio to mislead viewers.

Deepfake online videos are burgeoning as tools and applications to make fictional content gets cheaper, lowering barriers for non-experts to make them.

One of the ways to make deepfake videos involve encoding, decoding, and face-swapping. First, an AI encoder runs several face shots of two persons. Then, the encoder learns of similarities in the faces and compresses the images.

 

As the faces are different, one AI decoder picks the first person’s face, and another decoder picks the second person’s face. Then, the encoded images are fed into the "wrong" decoder to perform the face swap. This process is done on every frame to make a convincing video.

In certain other cases, the AI is trained to create new images and videos from scratch using Generative Adversarial Network (GAN).

GAN, with the help of Machine Learning, makes two neural networks to contest against each other in a game with a given training set. This helps generate new data and output related to the training set.

Has Deepfake been used in politics before Delhi elections?

Since its inception in late 2017, deepfake images and videos have largely been used in pornography. 96% of all deepfakes online are non-consensual pornographic videos, according to Deep Trace Labs, a deepfake detection technology firm.

 

In the political sphere, an allegedly deepfake video of Gabon's President Ali Bongo led to a coup d'état, which was later crushed.

Apart from this, a deepfake video by Future Advocacy showed UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn endorsing each other. The think-tank's video was posted in an attempt to show the potential of deepfakes in undermining democracy.

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