Pakistani politician deepfakes himself to deliver a speech from behind bars

Grammar might be off, but use case remains groundbreaking

While pundits fear a future where elections are clouded by AI-created videos of faked politicans spreading misinformation, a Pakistani politician has deliberately delivered a deepfake of a speech while isolated from media behind bars.

That politician was Imran Khan, elected prime minister in 2018 but stood down from his role following a no-confidence motion in April 2022. The cricketer-turned-politician's removal from office sparked public protests – which Khan courted, to the displeasure of the ruling party.

Khan was locked up and convicted in August 2023 on charges alleging he illegally sold state gifts. He was sentenced to three years in jail and his conviction barred him from political office for five years.

That hasn't stopped him campaigning for Pakistan's election – to be held on February 8, 2024 – with tactics including an online rally staged last weekend.

Staged by the party he represents, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the almost five-hour event [VIDEO] that culminated in a four-minute speech by an AI version of Khan.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP) the video was based on notes the former PM sent to his lawyers. Those notes were recorded and fed into a tool from AI firm ElevenLabs that clones voices from existing speech samples.

Footage of Khan was played while his AI-generated voice delivered the address. A caption appeared at intervals notifying viewers of the synthetic nature of the voice.

While some noted that the grammar was a little off, others praised the effort.

PTI celebrated the event and special message as "groundbreaking."

Internet interruption watcher NetBlocks reported social media platforms were throttled during the rally. The outfit noted that internet outages during the event were "consistent with previous instances of internet censorship targeting opposition leader Imran Khan and his party PTI."

X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube were all disrupted on a nationwide-scale ahead of the virtual gathering, according to NetBlocks. ®

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