AI Infects Elections in South Asia

Screengrab of AI reproduction of the late M Karunanidhi, leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party
Illustration: Flaming Hydra

by Fahad Shah

A brief video of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi performing garba, a traditional dance form, went viral a few weeks ago. But Modi denied its authenticity: “I have not danced garba since my school days,” he said. “Someone created a deepfake video of me.” Though the video was later found to be a lookalike of Modi dancing at an event in the UK, the episode ignited a nationwide debate on the ramifications of artificial intelligence (AI) ahead of upcoming national elections, which are set to begin April 19.

Business and political interests are now able to buy unimaginably sophisticated tools for the creation of propaganda and opinion making. Authoritarian democracies with tight control of media access can now flood the airwaves with cutting-edge disinformation, making it easier for them to consolidate and wield their power than ever before. And with the sudden proliferation of AI, which can turbocharge the production and spread of online messages, it appears that democracy is taking a deep hit. 

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