Sudan’s civil war is taking an alarming turn online. A mysterious account on TikTok recently uploaded a “leaked recording” of Sudan’s former leader Omar al-Bashir, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. But there’s a twist. This voice is not Bashir’s.
According to the BBC, she is known on TikTok as the “Voice of Sudan” report, this channel baffled many with its authentic-looking recordings of Bashir. By mixing old press conference clips with these “leaked recordings,” the authenticity of the content is further blurred. There are many recordings of secret meetings and phone calls, which carry the typical gritty sound of poor connections, reinforcing the illusion of legitimacy.
BBC Monitoring Sudan experts have expressed skepticism about the reliability of these footage. They said Mr Bashir’s health was deteriorating and it was doubtful he would have been able to speak so clearly.
What does AI have to do with the Sudanese civil war?
A campaign using artificial intelligence to impersonate Sudan’s former leader Omar al-Bashir has garnered hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok, causing online chaos in the war-torn country. . https://t.co/FWsG9Eh2Mv
— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) October 5, 2023
The breakthrough came when a cautious user recognized one of the recordings. Mr. Bashir’s words were completely consistent with the broadcast by Mr. al-Insirafi, a prominent Sudanese political commentator based in the United States. Although their voices are different, when the two recordings were layered together, they were found to be eerily synchronized. This finding suggests using advanced speech translation software to convert one voice into another.
Further analysis revealed a recurring pattern. Multiple Bashir recordings may be traced back to this commentator. However, there is no direct evidence of blogger involvement.
deciphering the motive
The motives behind these impersonations remain open to speculation. Are these uploads an attempt to deceive the public that Bashir is resurfacing in the war? Or is the aim to use Bashir’s voice to legitimize certain political positions? In any case, the consistent narrative of these recordings is a criticism of General Burhan, the head of Sudan’s military.
According to the BBC, when approached, the channel denied any intention to deceive and said it wanted to give voice to Sudan’s reality.
Broader Implications: The Evolution of Synthetic Media
The incident highlights growing concerns about the misuse of advanced AI in the media. Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that “the democratization of access to advanced audio and video manipulation technology is very concerning.” Experts say it could make it easier for ordinary individuals to create fake content, which could have a major impact on the spread of information.
As Mohamed Suliman, a researcher at Northeastern University’s Civic AI Lab, emphasizes, there is a real risk that such recordings could raise questions about their authenticity and spread mistrust.
Preventing audio misinformation
Determining the legitimacy of such recordings can be difficult, especially during times of civil war. While the technology to generate fake audio has advanced significantly, tools to detect such fabrications are still in their infancy.
TikTok took immediate action after learning of the misleading content, removing accounts that violated its policy against posting false and potentially harmful content.
Parallel development of voice technology
AI voice technology isn’t just making waves in politics. In an unrelated development, Spotify started An AI-driven voice translation tool for podcasts. Touted as revolutionary, the tool can translate podcast content into different languages while preserving the original podcaster’s audio. While such innovations offer immense potential for the global dissemination of content, they also raise questions about the ethical implications of voice manipulation.
The Omar al-Bashir impersonation on TikTok is a stark reminder of the challenges of the digital age. As technology advances at an unprecedented rate, platforms, creators, and consumers alike have a responsibility to navigate this space with care, awareness, and integrity.