Delhi Elections: BJP’s Manoj Tiwari Used Deepfake Video To Reach Larger Voter Base

The internet has become a dirty cesspool of deception and fake news and the AI-generated deepfake videos are the latest weapon.

New Delhi| The saffron party used artificial intelligence technology to create two deepfake videos of party leader Manoj Tiwari, in which he has been morphed realistically to show him speaking in two languages to appeal to different voter groups ahead of the Delhi assembly election earlier this month.

Deepfake uses AI (artificial intelligence) to create morphed videos that seem real; it can even put words in the mouth of another person.

Two videos of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manoj Tiwari — In Haryanvi dialect and English, were circulated widely on WhatsApp a day before the Delhi went to polls.

In both the identical videos, he could be heard slamming the rival Aam Aadmi Party and urging people to vote for the Lotus, BJP’s party symbol.”

It’s the first time a political party anywhere has used a deepfake for campaigning purposes. In the original video, Tiwari speaks in English, criticizing his political opponent Arvind Kejriwal and urging voters to vote for the BJP. The second video has been manipulated using deepfake technology so his mouth moves convincingly as he speaks in Haryanvi, the Hindi dialect spoken by the target voters for the BJP.

An analysis of Mr Tiwari’s 44-second monologue by Vice news website led to the discovery of the use of deepfake by the BJP.

In one of the two videos, Mr Tiwari speaks in Haryanvi, calling out the promises of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party. In the original video, he is speaking the same lines, but in Hindi. Every gesture, every frame is the same, except the facial expressions and lip-syncing that mimic the language he’s speaking.

“Congratulations, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act has been passed in the Rajya Sabha…” Mr Tiwari says in Hindi.

The report had claimed that Delhi BJP’s IT Cell entered a deal with Chandigarh-based communication firm The Ideaz Factory to create a ‘positive campaign’ for the party using the deepfake videos. However, Bakshi, the BJP IT cell co in charge, categorically denied this claim and said, “We had not tied up with any of such agencies and if used positively the technology definitely sounds good.”

The party told Vice that the Tiwari deepfake reached approximately 15 million people in 5,800 WhatsApp groups.

Also Read: ‘Beef Janata Party’- Karnataka Congress renames BJP in a new video

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.

The political communications firm also used a dubbing artist to impersonate Tiwari and read the speech in different languages. This was then superimposed on the video.

It is alarming because the big risk is that we reach a point where people can no longer trust what they see or hear. In that scenario, a video wouldn’t even need to be digitally altered for people to denounce it as fake. It’s not hard to imagine the corrosive impact that would have on an already fragile politics of the country.

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