‘I watched a video in which I was doing garba’: India PM Modi warns about deepfakes

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Indian prime minister Narendra Modi called the misuse of deepfake technology “worrying”, citing an example of a fake video of him performing the traditional Gujarati dance of garba.

“Due to Artificial Intelligence and especially because of deepfake (technology), a new crisis has emerged. A significant section of Bharat is such that it does not have the means necessary for verification or to authenticate,” Mr Modi said at a special Diwali programme held at the BJP headquarters, referring to the country by its Hindi nomenclature.

“I just watched a video in which I was doing garba; even I was impressed at how well it has been made but it has been made using Artificial Intelligence,” he said.

Deepfakes are doctored audio-visual material created using artificial intelligence and they mostly involve the production of a fake “face” that is merged with an authentic video to create a video of an event that never really took place.

AI-generated videos can look very convincing and deceive viewers easily.

“People can fall prey to believing what they see to be true… and this will lead us towards a major crisis,” Mr Modi warned.

The Indian prime minister’s remarks come as several celebrities in India voiced concerns after a deepfake video emerged on social media with the morphed face of actor Rashmika Mandanna, wearing a black dress and entering an elevator.

The original video on which Ms Mandanna’s face was morphed is actually of British-Indian influencer Zara Patel.

“I feel really hurt to share this and have to talk about the deepfake video of me being spread online. Something like this is honestly, extremely scary not only for me, but also for each one of us who today is vulnerable to so much harm because of how technology is being misused,” Ms Mandanna said.

“Today, as a woman and as an actor, I am thankful for my family, friends and well wishers who are my protection and support system. But if this happened to me when I was in school or college, I genuinely can’t imagine how could I ever tackle this,” she added.

Several Indian actors, including Amitabh Bachchan and Katrina Kaif backed the actor and called for legal interventions.

India’s IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar warned earlier this month that deep fakes are the latest and “even more dangerous and damaging form of misinformation” that harm women in particular.

“PM Narendra Modi’s government is committed to ensuring Safety and Trust of all Digital Nagriks (citizens) using internet under the IT rules notified in April, 2023 – it is a legal obligation for platforms to ensure no misinformation is posted by any user,” he said.

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