AI for President How South Korean president's campaign used deepfakes

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AI-generated video of Yoon Suk-yeol

A deepfake of South Korea’s new president helped propel him into office.

What’s new: Yoon Suk-yeol, who won the country’s March 9 election, campaigned using videos that featured an AI-generated likeness of himself answering voters’ questions. No deception was involved; viewers were informed that they were watching a computer animation.

How it works: Seoul-based DeepBrain AI created Yoon’s avatar using 20 hours of audio and video of the candidate captured in front of a green screen, totaling around 3,000 spoken sentences, according to France24.

  • Every day for two months prior to the election, Yoon’s campaign team selected a question and scripted an answer to be delivered by the avatar, which was dubbed AI Yoon.
  • At first, AI Yoon delivered remarks about policy, but the scripts became more casual as AI Yoon told viewers about his Meyers-Briggs personality type and favorite karaoke songs. The avatar also lobbed insults at Yoon’s opponent Lee Jae-myung and the incumbent president.
  • At first, Lee disparaged AI Yoon. Two weeks before the election, though, he deployed his own avatar. Unlike AI Yoon, Lee’s doppelganger was based on recordings of actual campaign appearances.

Behind the news: The first known political use of deepfakes occurred in 2020, when Indian politician Manoj Tiwari altered a campaign video to show himself delivering the same message in various local languages. The technology has also fueled political scandals. In 2019, a Malaysian government minister said a video that captured him engaging in extramarital sex was a deepfake. Earlier that year, speculation that a video of Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, was a deepfake had spurred an attempted coup.

Why it matters: Yoon, who is known for his gruff, no-nonsense personality, created a digital double designed to resonate positively with the young voters who were deemed critical to his victory. While some critics dismissed the gambit, Yoon’s success suggests a bright future for campaign-sanctioned fakes tailored to appeal to particular groups.

We’re thinking: A politician used a deepfake to make himself seem more authentic! How’s that for irony?


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