An Indonesian political party used generative AI to "resurrect" one of the most violent political figures in the nation's history in a bizarre, deepfaked endorsement message, CNN reports — the latest, and possibly strangest, use of generative AI in the world of politics, elections, and information.
The figure pictured in the deepfake — first shared to X-formerly-Twitter on January 6 — is the former Indonesian dictator Suharto, whose US-backed New Order Regime is estimated to have killed anywhere between 500,000 and about a million Indonesians. Suharto's brutal regime lasted over three decades, until mass unrest caused him to formally resign in 1998. He died in 2008.
But now, it seems that Suharto is back. Sort of.
Per CNN, the long-dead leader's voice and visage were brought into Indonesia's ongoing election cycle via deepfake by leaders of the nation's Golkar party, the right-wing political group to which Suharto and his New Order Regime once belonged. According to CNN, the Golkar party is supporting frontrunner Prabowo Subianto, the current Indonesian defense minister who served as one of Suharto's former generals and was even Suharto's one-time son-in-law. In the video, Suharto reportedly implores Indonesians to cast support for the Golkar party — meaning it's a de facto endorsement of Prabowo, as the defense minister is more commonly known.
"On February 14 2024, we will determine the fate of the Indonesian nation," Golkar party deputy chairman Erwin Aksa, who first shared the video to X, captioned the deepfaked clip (as translated from Indonesian to English using Google Translate.) "We must elect the right people's representatives and leaders for Indonesia, for all Indonesian people."
This isn't the first time AI has been deployed in the ongoing Indonesian election. According to Reuters, Prabowo's campaign previously used AI to create a cartoonish AI avatar of the general — who helped carry out massacres and has attempted multiple coups in the past — in a seemingly successful attempt to soften the hardline military head's image to younger voters.
Coupled together, these AI use cases feel like an ominous sign of election times. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, a fact that the Golkar party clearly understands. And when a younger electorate is far enough removed from a nation's violent history, rewriting that history, one cuddly AI avatar of a violent general at a time, might get a bit easier.
That said, though, not all Indonesian voters found the Suharto clip to be so inspirational.
"This is the state of our country today," one Indonesian citizen posted on X, according to CNN, "bringing dead dictators back to life to fool and scare us into votes."
More on AI and elections: Bill Gates Says AI Could "Undermine Elections and Democracy"