Home Deepfake electioneering sparks AI ‘return’ of controversial dictator

Deepfake electioneering sparks AI ‘return’ of controversial dictator

Indonesia has experienced the impact of deepfake electioneering with a message from a controversial dictator who ruled the country for more than 30 years.

 The former military general opened the address with the words, “I am Suharto, the second president of Indonesia,” but it was a political communication from beyond the grave as he died in 2008, aged 86.

As reported by CNN, the artificial intelligence (AI) powered fake video has been viewed more than 4.7 million times on X since it was launched, with the viral clip gaining further traction across TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube.

The image of the Smiling General, as Suharto was known despite his fierce reputation and leadership style, was deployed to connect with voters ahead of the Indonesian general election with around 200 million eligible citizens set to cast their vote.

It is believed Golkar – one of the nation’s oldest political parties – was responsible for the production – as part of its strategy to resonate with the electorate.

“The video was made to remind us how important our votes are in the upcoming election,” said Erwin Aksa, deputy chairman of Golkar which is not directly contesting the presidential poll with its own candidate. Instead, it is backing Prabowo Subianto, another former army figure under the rule of Suharto, and also his former son-in-law.

By using the image and voice of Suharto, a long-time Golkar figure, the party is seeking to influence the opinions of the electorate to support Subianto.

Aksa continued this sentiment on X when he posted, “As a member of Golkar, I am very proud of Suharto because he successfully developed Indonesia. He brought a lot of success. We must respect it and remember his services – Golkar was there.”

Impact of deepfakes

However, the AI video has not been universally accepted with some criticising the move.

The CNN report detailed rejections of the political propaganda with one X post stating, “This is the state of our country today – bringing dead dictators back to life to fool and scare us into votes,” whilst another Indonesian opined, “Since when did it become ethical to create deepfakes out of dead people? It feels so morally wrong.”

The Indonesian election is just one of several important national polls across the world throughout 2024 and from the US presidential ballot to the UK general election, to Pakistan and India, there are genuine fears about the impact of AI-powered deepfakes on the democratic process.

Image: Talk AI Today/X

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Graeme Hanna
Tech Journalist

Graeme Hanna is a full-time, freelance writer with significant experience in online news as well as content writing. Since January 2021, he has contributed as a football and news writer for several mainstream UK titles including The Glasgow Times, Rangers Review, Manchester Evening News, MyLondon, Give Me Sport, and the Belfast News Letter. Graeme has worked across several briefs including news and feature writing in addition to other significant work experience in professional services. Now a contributing news writer at ReadWrite.com, he is involved with pitching relevant content for publication as well as writing engaging tech news stories.

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