AI Has Been Used To Resurrect A Dead Politician To Sway Election Results In Indonesia

In a surprising turn of events, a video featuring the late Indonesian president, Suharto, has surfaced just weeks before the upcoming elections. However, a closer look reveals that the stern figure in the video is not the actual “Smiling General” but an AI-generated deepfake.

The three-minute video, shared by Erwin Aksa, deputy chairman of Golkar, Indonesia’s prominent political party, emphasizes the significance of voting in the upcoming elections. The deepfake, mimicking Suharto’s face and voice, is part of a strategy to rally support for Golkar and its favored candidate, Prabowo Subianto. The party, not fielding its candidate, seeks to leverage Suharto’s legacy to influence voters.

While Aksa praises Suharto’s achievements on social media, the online community strongly disapproves of using a deceased leader for political propaganda. Critics argue that manipulating the image and voice of a dead person, even in the age of advanced technology, crosses ethical boundaries.

The prevalence of AI in Indonesian politics is evident as major parties resort to various deepfake techniques. The campaign team of Prabowo Subianto, the current defense minister and a presidential hopeful, admits to using AI software for a light-hearted TikTok makeover to appeal to younger voters. Another controversial video features AI-generated children in a TV commercial, raising concerns and prompting watchdog groups to call out the deceptive practice.

The impact of deepfakes on elections is a growing concern, with experts highlighting the speed at which such manipulated content can reach millions, potentially influencing voters. As the country with one of the highest internet usage rates, Indonesia’s political landscape heavily relies on social media, making it susceptible to the influence of AI-generated content.

President Anies Baswedan, the third presidential candidate, warns against using AI in elections after becoming a victim of an audio deepfake. His campaign, employing an OpenAI-powered chatbot, stresses the need for critical evaluation in the face of rapidly advancing AI technology.

Despite advisories from Indonesia’s Communications Ministry and efforts by watchdog groups, concerns persist about the potential manipulation of voters through deepfakes. TAPP (Tim Advokasi Peduli Pemilu), a Jakarta-based nonprofit, emphasizes the government’s lack of awareness regarding the dangers posed by deepfakes and calls for vigilance.

Suharto’s reappearance, albeit through a deepfake, revives discussions about his controversial 32-year dictatorship. International rights organizations consider his regime one of the most corrupt and brutal periods in Indonesia’s history. The video’s virality sparks debates about his legacy, revealing the complexity of opinions surrounding his rule.

In places like Kemusuk, Suharto’s birthplace, his image remains prevalent despite the controversial nature of his regime. The deepfake’s impact underscores the enduring influence of Suharto’s legacy, leaving many, including retired officer Anton Pratama, concerned about the resurgence of the dictator’s ideology in the country.

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