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Business News/ News / India/  Lok Sabha Elections: How AI will be a double-edged sword to boost fake news, curb voting manipulations in upcoming polls
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Lok Sabha Elections: How AI will be a double-edged sword to boost fake news, curb voting manipulations in upcoming polls

AI technology brings both risks and benefits to elections in India. While it can facilitate transparent vote counting, it also presents challenges such as misinformation and the need for regulatory frameworks.

Lok Sabhe elections 2024: More than 96 crore people will caste their vote to elect their representative in Lok Sabha polls set to take place later this year. AI led misinformation carries the potential to disrupt the election process with voter manipulation (Sanjeev Gupta)Premium
Lok Sabhe elections 2024: More than 96 crore people will caste their vote to elect their representative in Lok Sabha polls set to take place later this year. AI led misinformation carries the potential to disrupt the election process with voter manipulation (Sanjeev Gupta)

The AI frenzy is likely to have vast implications for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in India. Content generated with the use of technology such as deepfakes has already begun to accentuate the spread of misinformation. But it also broaches the possibility of additional transparency during vote counting with real-time surveillance — making AI a double-edged sword during elections. 

The technology carries the potential to transform how elections are held in the country, with some experts believing that the era of e-election is not far away for India. Before that however, it is crucial to address the legal challenges related to the technology which is continuously evolving. 

AI-led misinformation during polls 

Artificial intelligence (especially through the creation of deepfakes) poses a major challenge for spreading misinformation, especially during elections. It can manipulate the democratic process in three broad areas, first on the voter’s side, second on the candidate’s side, and third on the vote counting process.

“With advanced AI it is possible to impersonate anybody, be it a voter or a candidate. So, it is easy to create a digital twin or AI avatar of any famous politician and make any false statements, or fraudulent promises, and people are led to believe wrongfully that this is the party agenda in the manifesto," explains Kartik Sharma, author of ‘Essentials of AI’.

Legal challenges in dealing with AI-generated fake news

Underlining the legal challenge of tackling AI-generated misinformation, Gangesh Varma, Principal Associate, Saraf and Partners, said that the definition of fake news or misinformation is complicated, and the problem is not limited to India and is a global challenge.  

Amidst a vast spectrum of misinformation, he noted that it was important to see how much of it qualified as a criminal offence. He said that under the present legal framework, a person can’t be prosecuted or held accountable for spreading fake information until and unless the misinformation is a threat to the sovereignty, unity or integrity of India or amounts to character assassination. 

Identifying the laws under which a person can be punished for spreading fake news, Mrinal Ojha, Partner, Solaris Legal, said, "The primary statutes that could potentially trigger if fake news is spread using deepfakes are the India Penal Code, 1860 (or the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 in due course); Information Technology Act, 2000; and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021."

"However, there doesn’t exist a specific law that addresses just AI and deepfake technology and targeting the individual who creates it," noted Gangesh Varma.

Challenges ahead for Election Commission

The menace of misinformation has existed for a longer period, and the advent of AI technology has turbocharged the spread of fake news. In the context of Lok Sabha elections 2024, the only solution to AI-fueled misinformation would be guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India, pointed out Varma. 

Mentioning the need to come up with counter-AI monitoring tools, Kartik Sharma called for the use of sentiment analysis tools that can figure out AI-generated fake videos or other content about party candidates or politicians. 

 “There is the need for a rapid response team to be able to monitor, analyse, track and quickly respond to such cases on time because fake videos and other misinformation will happen, but how quickly you address them before they spread like a wildfire is what matters," said Sharma.

AI to pave the way for E-election?

Not all the things associated with artificial intelligence pose a threat to elections, as several AI-generated technologies are helping in conducting free and fair elections. Wider adoption of such technologies can also make way for an e-election.

“I think the next term, ie 2029, when elections happen, there is a higher probability that we'll be able to test out the e-election, where I can just be at home and use my fingerprints scan, my Aadhaar, or my writing scan, to cast my vote while sitting at home, or while travelling abroad," said Sharma.

The upside to incorporating AI in elections

In 2021, the Bihar Election Commission tied up with AI firm Staqu to use video analytics with optical character recognition (OCR) to analyse CCTV footage from counting booths during the panchayat elections.

“The system enabled the Bihar Election Commission to achieve complete transparency and eliminate any chances of manipulation. The AI-powered automation not only sped up the vote-counting process but also eliminated any chances of hate speech circulation. As a result of this model, the number of petitions filed against election irregularities has reduced from 80,000 to only 400" said Atul Rai, co-founder of Staqu. 

Apart from increasing transparency in the vote counting process, AI can also be used for the customisation of political campaigns based on the local dialect and demography of the voter base, said Sharma indicating his optimism towards a wider transformation of election because of AI and other technologies.

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Published: 25 Feb 2024, 05:56 AM IST
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