Fake audio of ex-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir appears on TikTok

  • A TikTok account has been impersonating the voice of ex-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir
  • Ousted from power in 2019, al-Bashir's whereabouts have changed several times since
  • An investigation deemed the recordings fake, and TikTok has since removed the account
Sudan AI

As Sudan grapples with a bitter civil war, an AI-powered TikTok campaign using AI is fueling the fire with misinformation.

Using AI to mimic the voice of former president Omar al-Bashir, this campaign has sown seeds of doubt and confusion among a nation already in turbulence.

Since late August, an anonymous TikTok user has uploaded what they term “leaked recordings” of al-Bashir. However, the voice featured in these recordings is highly likely inauthentic. 

Though reports from earlier in the year indicated that Al-Bashir, facing serious allegations of war crimes and removed from power in 2019, was being held in a military hospital, he has remained elusive.

His prolonged absence from public affairs, combined with these mysterious recordings, has deepened the uncertainty enveloping Sudan. 

Highlighting the implications of such deceptive campaigns, experts emphasize the growing influence of technology in spreading misinformation.

Deep fake recordings also interfered with the recent Slovakian election, and many are concerned about the technology’s influence on forthcoming elections in the US and India next year. 

Hany Farid from the University of California, Berkeley, expresses concerns: “Sophisticated actors have been able to distort reality for decades, but now the average person with little to no technical expertise can quickly and easily create fake content.”

The Voice of Sudan is likely an AI deep fake

Diving deeper into the TikTok channel, “The Voice of Sudan” appears to be a blend of various content sources – older press conferences, news snippets, and the debated “leaked recordings” attributed to al-Bashir. 

Many of these clips carry the hallmark graininess one would expect from covertly recorded conversations, further muddling the truth.

BBC’s investigative team, in collaboration with Sudanese experts, delved into the authenticity of these recordings. Initial findings suggest that, while the voice bears a striking resemblance to al-Bashir’s, the possibility of it genuinely being him is slim. 

The evidence leans more towards using AI voice transformation software, capable of morphing any voice into another.

Subsequent investigations also linked some of these recordings to previous broadcasts from a well-known Sudanese political commentator based in the US.

The role and intentions of “The Voice of Sudan” remain nebulous. While the channel might seek to insinuate al-Bashir’s involvement in ongoing affairs, it could also be pushing a specific political agenda by impersonating his voice. The channel’s real motivations, however, remain shrouded in mystery.

After a thorough examination and recognizing the potential harm of such content, TikTok took decisive action. 

The platform removed “The Voice of Sudan” for breaching community guidelines, indicating a proactive stance towards tackling the deep fakes that are becoming tough to avoid on social media platforms. 

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