In early 2020, Manoj Tiwari, the president of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), created several deepfakes for the Legislative Assembly elections in Delhi.

In the original 44-second (non deepfake) video monologue, Tiwari speaks in Hindi, promoting the BJP and critiquing the incumbent Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal.

The BJP then partnered with the political communications firm The Ideaz Factory to create several deepfaked versions. They featured Tiwari speaking in English and a Haryanvi dialect. The videos were designed to ingratiate Tiwari to a larger Delhi electorate of migrant and urban voters and discourage them from casting their ballot for his political rival.

The deepfakes reportedly reached 15 million people in 5,800 WhatsApp groups.

The incumbent Aam Aadmi Party of Kejriwal ultimately won re-election. Nonetheless, this was one of the first significant incidents where deepfakes were used for a major political campaign.

References Nilesh Christopher, “We’ve Just Seen the First Use of Deepfakes in an Indian Election Campaign,” VICE, February 18, 2020. Images from “In BJP’s Deepfake Video Shared on WhatsApp, Leader Speaks in 21 Languages,” NDTV, February 20, 2020. Background theme image from Shutterstock.

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