Written by 19:47 World

A Small Army Combating a Flood of Deepfakes in India’s Election

Through the middle of a high-stakes election being held during a mind-melting heat wave, a blizzard of confusing deepfakes blows across India. The variety seems endless: A.I.-powered mimicry, ventriloquy and deceptive editing effects. Some of it is crude, some jokey, some so obviously fake that it could never be expected to be seen as real.

The overall effect is confounding, adding to a social media landscape already inundated with misinformation. The volume of online detritus is far too great for any election commission to track, let alone debunk.

A diverse bunch of vigilante fact-checking outfits have sprung up to fill the breach. While the wheels of law grind slowly and unevenly, the job of tracking down deepfakes has been taken up by hundreds of government workers and private fact-checking groups based in India.

“We have to be ready,” said Surya Sen, a forestry officer in the state of Karnataka who has been reassigned during the election to manage a team of 70 people hunting down deceptive A.I.-generated content. “Social media is a battleground this year.” When Mr. Sen’s team finds content they believe is illegal, they tell social media platforms to take it down, publicize the deception or even ask for criminal charges to filed.

Celebrities have become familiar fodder for politically pointed tricks, including Ranveer Singh, a star in Hindi cinema.

During a videotaped interview with an Indian news agency at the Ganges River in Varanasi, Mr. Singh praised the powerful prime minister, Narendra Modi, for celebrating “our rich cultural heritage.” But that is not what viewers heard when an altered version of the video, with a voice that sounded like Mr. Singh’s and a nearly perfect lip sync, made the rounds on social media.

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Last modified: 1 June 2024
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