• Monday, June 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Modi appreciates his AI dance video even as ‘technology abuse’ row mars India polls

The Indian PM said he enjoyed seeing himself dance, which was in sharp contradiction with the police of the eastern state of West Bengal which objected to a similar video featuring Mamata Banerjee, a major critic of Modi.

An AI video showing Indian PM Narendra Modi dancing (Picture: X screengrab) and Modi (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) and deepfake videos have come to dominate the Indian general elections 2024. While some videos have led to controversies and claims and counter claims between the ruling and opposition parties, there have also been moments of fun, albeit less.

Recently, an AI video surfaced on social media showing prime minister Narendra Modi in a jovial mood — grooving on a stage to a song from the Indian Hindi film industry while wearing a trendy jacket and trousers. The leader himself also took note of the video and shared it on his X timeline, saying “such creativity in peak poll season is truly a delight”.

“I also enjoyed seeing myself dance,” he also said.

However, an identical video showing one of Modi’s major critics, Mamata Banerjee, resulted in a less amicable outcome as the police of the eastern state of West Bengal, which Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress governs, launched an investigation saying it could “affect law and order”.

Read: Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will be merged to India if we cross 400 seats in polls: BJP leader

Modi’s supporters pointed out the difference in approaches and taunted those who accuse the PM as a dictator while his critics alleged that the prime minister’s sporting reaction was more of a pretension.

Use of AI worries Indian authorities during polls

The different reactions to videos being circulated using AI tools have shown how the use and abuse of technology is on the rise and causing more concern for regulators and security officials as the world’s most populous nation and the largest democracy holds a mammoth general election.

Read: From making daal-roti to serving meal, WATCH Modi’s day out at Sikh shrine

According to a World Economic Forum survey published earlier this year, the risk to India from misinformation is seen even higher than that from infectious diseases or illicit economic activity in the next two years.

“India is already at a great risk of misinformation – with AI in picture, it can spread at the speed of 100X,” New Delhi-based consultant Sagar Vishnoi, who is advising some political parties on AI use in India’s election, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Elderly people, often not a tech savvy group, increasingly fall for fake narratives aided by AI videos. This could have serious consequences like triggering hatred against a community, caste or religion.”

The current general election, in which nearly a billion people are eligible to vote, is the first in which AI is being used. While there were innocent incidents to begin with, witnessing some politicians using technology to make videos and audios to personalise their campaigns, it gradually snowballed into something more sinister, including deepfakes of Indian actors criticising Modi and fake clips involving two of the prime minister’s top aides that resulted in arrest of nine people.

While authorities have warned parties against using AI to spread misinformation and shared provisions of laws that call for jail terms for offences such as forgery, promoting rumours and enmity, they have also acknowledged that the menace is difficult to address.

“We don’t have an (adequate monitoring) capacity…the ever evolving AI environment is difficult to keep track of,” a senior security official in India was quoted as saying by the news outlet.

A senior election official even said that they are not able to fully monitor social media, let alone controlling content.

Both the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorised to speak.

AI and deepfakes are being increasingly used in elections, not just in India, but also in countries such as the US, Pakistan and Indonesia.

While Modi’s reaction to his AI dancing video was light hearted, the Kolkata city police in Bengal launched a probe against X user, SoldierSaffron7, for sharing the Banerjee dance video.

Kolkata cyber crime officer, Dulal Saha Roy, shared a typed notice on X asking the user to delete the video or “be liable for strict penal action.” However, the user was less obliging.

“I am not deleting that, no matter what happens,” the user told Reuters via X direct messaging, declining to share their number or real name as they feared police action. “They can’t trace (me).”

Election officers told Reuters that authorities can only ask social media platforms to remove content and are left scrambling if they say the posts don’t violate their internal policies.

The dancing videos of Modi and Banerjee, with 30 million and 1.1 million views respectively on X, were created using a free website, Viggle.

It allows a photograph and a few basic prompts that are detailed in a tutorial to generate videos within minutes that show the person in the photograph dancing or making other real-life moves.

(With Reuters inputs)

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