Deepfakes are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, including in Africa. Deepfakes are videos or images manipulated using artificial intelligence to create realistic but fake content. This technology can be used to create convincing fake videos of politicians, celebrities, and ordinary people saying or doing things they never did. We explore how deepfakes target African countries to spread fake news and propaganda.
To Stoke Ethnic Tensions
ExpressVPN reveals concerns about how people’s memories may be altered due to the incorrect facts and misinformation that deepfakes can perpetuate. Psychologists have named this cognitive bias the ‘Mandela Effect’. This notion is particularly problematic for certain parts of Africa, where deepfakes have been used to stoke political and ethnic tension by creating and spreading fake videos that portray influential figures in a negative light. This is because such videos can quickly influence public opinion.
Ethnic Tensions During Elections In Kenya
For example, in 2018, a deepfake video shared on social media depicted a man who appeared to be Raila Odinga, a Kenyan politician, speaking in Kikuyu, the language of the dominant ethnic group in Kenya. The video was accompanied by a caption that claimed Odinga was secretly seeking support from the Kikuyu community, despite being from a different ethnic group himself. As political campaigns in Kenya are organized along ethnic lines, this video quickly drove distrust and suspicion between ethnic groups within the country.
Fake News In Nigeria
Kenya isn’t the only African country to have been subject to deepfake attacks, though. In Nigeria, deepfakes were also used to spread propaganda during election periods. During the 2019 election, videos were circulated on social media purporting to show the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, admitting to being a clone. A lot of Nigerian voters remained confused and wary for some time afterward.
It’s important to minimize the effects of deepfakes and the potential ‘brain-altering’ effects they could impose on African communities to ensure that tensions across tribes don’t escalate further.
To Blackmail The Rich
Similarly, deepfakes have been used in South Africa to manipulate and threaten public figures. Deepfakes can be incredibly convincing, and the creators of such videos have been known to superimpose celebrity’s faces into pornographic videos to extort celebrities by threatening to release the fake video if the celebrity in question doesn’t comply with certain demands.
In some cases, individuals may pay large sums of money to prevent the release of these videos. A well-known South African TV personality was targeted in 2020. Many people believed the video to be authentic until it was debunked a while later.
Indeed, celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson have expressed concern that even with significant efforts to fight back, it’s sometimes impossible to get these videos taken from the Internet. This can lead to irreversible stains on one’s reputation.
African Countries Should Remain Vigilant
These are just some of the ways that deepfakes are targeting countries in South Africa. The threats that deepfakes pose to the democracy of African countries highlight the need for individuals to remain vigilant and critical of what they see on social media.
To prevent the spread of deepfakes, individuals, governments, and social media platforms need to take action. This can include measures such as fact-checking, media literacy programs, and regulation of social media platforms. Only by taking action can we protect the integrity of African democracies and promote social cohesion.
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