The BJP 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 an another person.
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 videos were shared in some 5,800 WhatsApp groups, says the BJP.
“It (video) was (shared on) around 5,800 (WhatsApp groups). It was internal. A lot of people came back with inputs saying the videos were interesting, especially the Haryanvi dialect. It’s great, people liked it. Someone asked why don’t we do it in English. So I requested the volunteer to speak to the company to give us an English one to see, if lip syncing is the same or not,” Delhi BJP media in-charge Neelkant Bakshi told NDTV.
The BJP said they did not hire or pay for the services. “We have no contract with the company, we won’t know which company it is, I have never met them,” Mr Bakshi said.
The deepfake content for the BJP was made by Chandigarh-based firm Ideaz Factory. “Cannot comment because of client-agency relationship,” Ideaz Factory told NDTV.
AI security analysts say deepfake videos and audio content have not been widely used in elections, but there are fears over their misuse for spreading political misinformation. For example, a political party may create deepfake content to make it appear as if their opponent is speaking or doing something controversial.
The BJP said it used the technology positively for its own leader and not as a hit job against any rival.
“Deepfake technology has debuted in India for positive election campaign, probably it’s a first in the world. I contacted the firm, who sent me the video. They use an AI algorithm into which they feed hours and hours of public speeches by politicians, in this case Manoj Tiwari’s, so that whatever audio is fed it can be manipulated to speak in a way you want,” technology journalist Nilesh Christopher, who broke the story on Vice, told NDTV.
“Initially, the company said they have an arrangement with the BJP. They said it was a trial of two videos to reach to Haryanvi-speaking audience. Later, they said they won’t comment any further,” Mr Christopher said.