Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister, spent the country’s election campaign in jail, barred from taking part in what experts described as one of the least credible general elections in the country’s 76-year history.
But behind bars, he has been rallying supporters in recent months with speeches that use artificial intelligence to reproduce his voice, part of a tech-savvy strategy his party has used to circumvent a crackdown by the military.
And on Saturday, as official counts showed candidates aligned with his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, won the most seats in a surprise result that threw the country’s political system into disarray, it was the voice of AI of Mr. Khan who declared victory.
“I had full confidence that you would all come out to vote. You have lived up to my faith in you and your massive turnout has amazed everyone,” the brooding, slightly robotic voice said in the minutes-long video, which used historical images and footage of Mr Khan and carried a disclaimer that it was sourced from Artificial Intelligence. The speech rejected the victory claim of Mr Khan’s rival Nawaz Sharif and urged supporters to defend the victory.
As concerns grow about the use of artificial intelligence and its power to mislead, particularly in elections, Mr. Khan’s videos offer an example of how artificial intelligence can work to circumvent repression. But, experts say, they are also raising fears about its potential dangers.
“In this case, it’s for a good end, maybe an end that we would support – that someone locked up on bogus charges of corruption can speak to his supporters,” said Toby Walsh, author of “Faking It: Artificial” . Intelligence in a Human World’ and professor at the University of New South Wales. “But at the same time, it undermines our faith in the things we see and hear.”
Mr Khan, a charismatic former cricket star, was ousted from power in 2022 and jailed last year on charges of leaking state secrets among other charges. He and his supporters have said military leaders orchestrated his removal, a charge they reject.
During the election campaign, officials prevented its candidates from campaigning and censored news coverage of the party. In response, organizers held online rallies on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.
In December, his party began using artificial intelligence to spread Mr. Khan’s message, creating speeches based on notes he gave his lawyers from prison, according to party statements, and transferring them to video.
This is not the first time that political parties have used artificial intelligence.
In South Korea, the then-opposition People Power Party created an AI avatar of its presidential candidate, Yoon Suk Yeol, that interacted virtually with voters and spoke in slang and jokes to appeal to a younger demographic before the 2022 vote. (He won.)
In the United States, Canada and New Zealand, politicians have used AI to create dystopian images to drive their arguments or to reveal the technology’s potentially dangerous potential, as in a video featuring Jordan Peele and a fake Barack Obama.
During the 2020 state elections in Delhi, India, Manoj Tiwari, a candidate from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, created an artificial impersonation of himself speaking a Haryanvi dialect to target voters in that demographic. Unlike Khan’s video, it didn’t seem to be clearly labeled as AI
“The incorporation of artificial intelligence, particularly deepfakes, into political campaigning is not a passing trend, but one that will continue to evolve over time,” said Saifuddin Ahmed, assistant professor in the school of communication and information at the University of Technology Nanyang in Singapore. .