Home London Mayor Sadiq Khan blasts deepfake which spread “dangerous lies”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan blasts deepfake which spread “dangerous lies”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has sent a renewed warning on the deepfake audio clip of him which had the potential to cause “serious disorder”.

Last November, the audio was created using artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate Khan’s voice making comments to denigrate the annual Remembrance weekend events with a call for Palestine solidarity marches to be given priority.

The Mayor of London is a political role with the responsibility of setting the budget for the United Kingdom capital. The office has an annual budget of £17 billion to oversee public services and policies for Londoners, with the Mayor elected every four years.

The 53-year-old Labour politician was speaking to a BBC podcast this week on the high-profile incident which resulted in Khan describing deepfakes and AI as a “slippery slope for democracy” if the technology is not regulated effectively.

Purporting to sound like a secret recording, the clip referenced the 1965 Million March civil rights protest in Washington DC attended overwhelmingly by people of color.

“I don’t give a flying s*** about the Remembrance weekend,” the voice said. “What’s important and paramount is the one-million-man Palestinian march takes place on Saturday.”

The fake audio contained further remarks stating “​​I control the Met (London) Police, they will do as the Mayor of London tells them” and saying “The British public needs to get a grip” and “the buck stops with me”.

Malicious deepfake of Sadiq Khan

In what was likely to be the intended motivation, the deepfake triggered a large volume of hateful comments against Mr Khan on social media after it went viral, including among far-right groups.

“The timing couldn’t have been better if you’re seeking to sow disharmony and cause problems,” Khan told the BBC.

“What was being said was a red rag to a bull for the far right and others. But what concerned me the most was if you’re an innocent listener of this. Because it’s a secret undercover recording, in inverted commas, because it sounds like me, because of the timing and the context.”

On November 11, the Metropolitan Police confirmed it had investigated the audio but it “does not constitute a criminal offence”, with no existing UK criminal law to deal with this type of situation.

Mayor Khan added the abuse of AI “wasn’t a bit of fun” or “satire” and its maker had not been “naive” to the possible consequences.

The deepfake recording was traced to TikTok and what appears to be the source of the clip, an account called HJB News which the BBC report indicated shares anti-immigration and racist content.

Image: East London Mosque/Flickr/ CC 2.0

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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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