May 23, 2024
A vibrant digital campaign rally in an Indian town square, featuring an AI-generated avatar of a deceased politician addressing a diverse crowd. The scene shows the avatar, dressed in traditional Indian attire, speaking from a large digital screen. In the foreground, a captivated audience of families, young adults, and elders watches and reacts. The background subtly blends advanced technology with cultural motifs, illustrating the fusion of tradition and modernity in a new political era.



Political campaigns in India are now using AI to bring deceased politicians back to life, at least digitally, according to Rest of the World reporting. As the nation’s elections gain momentum, the ethical and legal implications of this practice are drawing scrutiny.

Vijay Vasanth, an actor-turned-politician, recently leveraged this technology in his campaign efforts in Kanniyakumari by digitally resurrecting his father, H. Vasanth Kumar, a former parliamentary representative and businessman who passed away from Covid-19 four years ago. In a campaign video, an AI-generated Kumar endorses his son, claiming his “soul is still with all of you,” a message aimed at garnering voter support by invoking his enduring presence and legacy.

This tactic is part of a broader trend where Indian political parties are increasingly turning to AI to connect with voters. M. Karunanidhi, a late political leader from Tamil Nadu, also made posthumous digital appearances, speaking at party events and book launches, with his iconic yellow scarf and dark glasses digitally recreated.

The utilization of AI in this manner taps into deep cultural sentiments, especially in India, where respect for the deceased is profound, and public criticism of them is rare. The revival of these leaders through AI aims to evoke nostalgia and reinforce ideological continuity, which can be particularly persuasive during elections.

Ethical concerns, legal ramifications in India, and the future of AI in politics

However, this practice has raised significant ethical questions. Critics argue that using the likenesses and voices of the deceased without explicit consent could lead to misinformation and manipulate voter perceptions, thus undermining the authenticity of political discourse. Moreover, it blurs the lines between genuine endorsements and fabricated content, potentially deceiving voters about the origins and veracity of the messages they receive.

Globally, similar concerns have prompted regulations, such as the ban on robocalls in the U.S., which also addressed issues of AI-generated voice calls during elections. Yet, in India, the regulatory landscape is still catching up with these rapid technological advancements.

Despite these concerns, proponents like Salem Dharanidharan, a spokesperson for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, liken the use of AI in political campaigns to historical shifts in communication technologies—from newspapers to cinema and television. They argue that AI is simply the latest medium to disseminate political ideologies more effectively.



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