Artificial Intelligence

An Indian politician used AI to translate his speech into other languages to reach more voters

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As social media platforms move to crack down on deepfakes and misinformation in the US elections, an Indian politician has used artificial intelligence techniques to make it look like he said things he didn’t say, Vice reports. In one version of a campaign video, Manoj Tiwari speaks in English; in the fabricated version, he “speaks” in Haryanvi, a dialect of Hindi.

Political communications firm The Ideaz Factory told Vice it was working with Tiwari’s Bharatiya Janata Party to create “positive campaigns” using the same technology used in deepfake videos, and dubbed in an actor’s voice to read the script in Haryanvi.

“We used a ‘lip-sync’ deepfake algorithm and trained it with speeches of Manoj Tiwari to translate audio sounds into basic mouth shapes,” Sagar Vishnoi of The Ideaz Factory said, adding that it allowed the candidate to target voters he might not have otherwise been able to reach as directly (while India has two official languages, Hindi and English, some Indian states have their own languages and there are hundreds of various dialects).

The faked video reached about 15 million people in India, according to Vice.

Even though more deepfake videos are used to create nonconsensual pornography, the now-infamous 2018 deepfake video of President Obama raised concerns about how false or misleading videos could be used in the political arena. Last May, faked videos were posted on social media that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring her words.

In October, however, California passed a bill making it illegal to share deepfakes of politicians within 60 days of an election. And in January, the US House Ethics Committee informed members that posting deepfakes on social media could be considered a violation of House rules.

Social media companies have announced plans to try to combat the spread of deepfakes on their platforms. Twitter’s “deceptive media” ban takes effect in March. Facebook banned some deepfakes last month and Reddit updated its policy to ban all impersonation on the platform, which includes deepfakes.

How and when intentional use of altered videos might affect the 2020 US elections is anyone’s guess, but as one expert told Vice, even though the Tiwari video was meant to be part of a “positive” effort, the genie is out of the bottle now.

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