Video of PTI’s Basharat Raja boycotting elections is a deepfake
Deepfake video goes viral on the eve of General Elections 2024
Claim: PTI’s candidate from NA-55, Muhammad Basharat Raja is boycotting the general election on PTI’s founder and ex-chairman, Imran Khan’s call.
Fact: The claim is false because the clip was created by altering another video using deepfake technology. In the original video, Basharat Raja is asking the general public to vote for him in the upcoming elections.
On 7 February 2024, a video started circulating on Facebook with an Urdu caption,
“عمران کی ہدایت پر راجہ بشارت نے الیکشن سے بائیکاٹ کا اعلان کر دیا”
[Translation: On Imran’s instructions, Raja Basharat announced a boycott of the election.]
In the 2-minute-long video, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate, Muhammad Basharat Raja, who is contesting elections for the national assembly from NA-55, can be heard saying that their party members are harassed during election campaigns. He also says that he voiced his concerns in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and now on Imran Khan’s call, he is boycotting the elections on 8 February.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are contesting elections separately after forming a coalition government in 2022. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI); faces obstacles with multiple key leaders and supporters behind bars, defections, the loss of its cricket bat symbol, and multiple independent candidates raising concerns about fair campaigning and a level playing field.
In the days leading up to the general elections of 2024, Soch Fact Check has observed an influx of false and misleading claims, especially regarding election boycotts that may impact public opinion and voter behaviour.
Fact or Fiction?
Upon closer inspection, Soch Fact Check found some visual clues initially which confirmed that the video shared on social media is a deepfake.
In deepfake videos, lip and facial movements often appear constrained and mechanised, lacking genuine expressions, and the face often has a robotic, unnatural appearance. Both of these features can be observed in the video under question at the 2:28 mark.
How are deep fakes created?
An article published by Bloomberg stated that creating deepfakes involves training an algorithm through “deep learning” of actual video footage of a specific individual. This process allows for substituting elements from one video, such as a person’s face, into different content.
These manipulations become particularly deceptive when combined with voice-cloning technology. Voice-cloning dissects an audio clip of a person’s speech into smaller, half-syllable components that can then be reassembled to form new words which appear to be spoken by the individual in the original recording.
Experts on fact-checking and disinformation have shared concerns over the use of deepfakes and AI during the upcoming elections across the globe as more than 50 countries are holding national elections in 2024.
Furthermore, Soch Fact Check conducted a keyword search with the term “Basharat Raja election video” in Urdu on X (formerly Twitter) which led to a video posted by the official account of Basharat Raja on 1 February 2024.
In the 3-minute long video posted by Basharat, he can be heard saying that the PTI has faced harassment and that they were not allowed to campaign for elections. He mentions sharing his concerns with and asking the ECP to take action against the discrimination towards PTI’s candidates.
Up until this point, the content of the original video is identical to that of the viral video. However, at no point does Raja mention boycotting elections on 8 February in the original clip. Therefore, at the 2:28 second mark of the viral video, the speaker’s voice seems to change. Whereas in the original clip, Raja’s voice remains consistent throughout, indicating that the original video has been altered or manipulated.
PTI also debunked the claim on X, saying that the party is not boycotting the elections and that all audios claiming otherwise are fake.
Muhammad Basharat Raja also released a video statement verifying that the video was created using AI and confirmed that he is participating in the general elections on PTI’s ticket.
Conclusion: A video showing PTI’s candidate Muhammad Basharat Raja announcing his boycott of the elections on the eve of the polls is a deepfake.
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