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AI-driven political messaging raises ethical dilemma – DW – 05/24/2024

Senthil Nayagam is the founder of Muonium, an Indian start-up that uses generative artificial intelligence (AI) to produce high-quality videos.

DuringIndia’s 2024 election season, Nayagam has started creating political content creation using AI that brings popular politicians, who are long deceased, back to life on screen.

This includes videos featuring M. Karunanidhi, the former chief minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, who died in 2018, and former prime ministers, such as Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“We are using AI, but we are doing it with good intentions,” Nayagam told DW. “We don’t want to misuse the technology or create deepfakes.”

The danger of deepfakes in campaigns

Indian polls have historically been a breeding ground for disinformation. This election season, there is even more potential for creating misleading content because of AI.

Before the elections began in April, millions of calls were made to Indian voters with AI-generated voice messages.

India elections offer a look at the impact of ‘deepfakes’

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In neighboring Pakistan, former Prime Minister Imran Khan used an AI-generated voice message to address supporters from jail last year.

However, many have raised concerns about the misuse of AI contributing to an already polarized political climate.

Political strategist Sagar Vishnoi has been studying the intersection of AI and politics.

“I first tried AI in campaigning and elections with [BJP politician] Manoj Tiwari in 2020,” he told DW.

“We created his message in two languages, Haryanvi and English, from a video where he was speaking in Hindi. I got a lot of positive feedback, but some people gave me constructive feedback saying there should have been a disclaimer or watermarking that stated that this was synthetic media and it’s not real,” he said.

Vishnoi, Nayagam, and other AI political content-creators have now made an agreement not to accept “unethical requests” from any political parties.

“Whatever content we generate using AI, we will mention clearly whether it’s audio or video, or even images. We will also not take up any unethical requests, since the elections are currently underway,” Vishnoi told DW.

The AI-based future of political communications

Political communication through artificial intelligence is here to stay and will only become more prominent in future elections. Even though it is a new medium, its impact on voters’ sentiments and decisions could be huge.

“AI can also be used for better campaigning and messaging to increase voter awareness, which in turn may lead to better voter turnout. AI’s role in future elections is indeed poised to grow, and its potential to positively impact the electoral process is significant,” Harpreet Dhody, an Indian strategic communication expert and government former media advisor, told DW.

Fact check: How AI may influence elections in 2024

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But Dhody warned that more regulation was needed: “To ensure the ethical use of AI in politics, regulations should focus on transparency, accountability, privacy, consent and fairness. The future of AI in politics is promising, but it must be navigated carefully to maintain the integrity of the democratic process.”

Law needs to catch up with technology

There have been instances where deepfakes of Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh and Aamir Khan making political statements were able to make the rounds before being taken down.

Although Singh filed a police report, experts say that the problem is the lack of clear rules regarding AI content.

“There is no specific legislation in India that explicitly bans deepfakes,” said Dhody. He added, however, that “the misuse of deepfake technology, especially when it involves sexually explicit material,” could fall under a section of India’s  Information Technology Act 2000 that concerned the “publishing or transmitting of obscene material in electronic form.”

Earlier this month, a petition was filed in the Delhi High Court asking the Election Commission of India to formulate guidelines and regulations around the use of AI-generated content during elections.

In April, Indian police arrested two people from the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress party, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns about a doctored video of Home Minister Amit Shah.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has faced similar accusations from opposition parties.

AI content creators say they work for both the ruling party and the opposition.

AI as India’s new economic powerhouse

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Edited by: Wesley Rahn

Originally Appeared Here

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