Indonesian dictator resurrected by AI for election propaganda

February 12, 2024

Deep fakes

AI resurrected the late Indonesian dictator Suharto back into the political arena in the form of a deep fake video that amassed over 4.7 million views.

Despite being convincing, viewers quickly realize that the figure in the video is not the actual former president, known for his “Smiling General” persona, who died in 2008.

Erwin Aksa, the deputy chairman of Golkar, one of Indonesia’s major political parties, posted the deep fake on X to encourage votes at the forthcoming February 14 elections. 

The translation of the post says: “The hopes and struggles of the Indonesian people will never be extinguished, they will always be realized in every generation. Indonesia’s dreams will always come true. On February 14, 2024, we will determine the fate of the Indonesian nation. We must elect the right people’s representatives and leaders for Indonesia, for all Indonesian people.”

“This video was made using AI technology to remind us how important our votes are in general elections which will determine the future so that the hopes of the Indonesian people are realized and prosperous.”

The original post remains on X. View it below.

Aksa said he admired Suharto’s contributions to Indonesia, stating on X, “As a member of Golkar, I am very proud of Suharto because he successfully developed Indonesia. He brought a lot of success. We must respect it and remember his services – Golkar was there.”

While some regions celebrate Suharto’s rule, others are wary of a resurgence of his ideologies, particularly in the early 90s when his human rights record came under intense scrutiny. 

Aksa isn’t the only Indonesian politician to use AI. Defense minister Prabowo Subiant used AI to create an animated version of the candidate to attract younger voters, and a party used AI-generated children in a TV ad, bypassing regulations against featuring real children in political campaigns.

These incidents have certainly not been without their critics, with many taking to X to discuss the implications of using a deceased individual for political marketing or propaganda.

Not much longer than 24 hours ago, an AI avatar of ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan declared victory for his former party on X before the final vote was announced. 

We’ve seen numerous examples of political deep fakes pitched into election campaigns, signaling a strange era in political campaigning where seeing is no longer believing.

Deception has always been a political tactic, but AI creates fresh angles for manipulation. 

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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