AI disinformation fears loom large over Turkish local elections | Election Updates

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As the nationwide local elections on March 31 draw near in Turkey, there is a growing concern about the rise of disinformation and fake media generated through artificial intelligence. A video surfaced on social media earlier this year, supposedly showing Istanbul’s opposition mayor praising President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Ekrem Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), appeared in the video complimenting the public transport projects implemented by the AK Party during their time in control of Istanbul.

Despite being widely discredited due to the misleading nature of Imamoglu’s remarks, the video sparked fears of media manipulation in an election where the AK Party is vying to regain cities previously won by the opposition in 2019. Political scandals involving “leaked” recordings are not uncommon in Turkey, with instances like CHP leader Deniz Baykal stepping down in 2010 following the release of a sex tape online.

It is believed that fake videos and images pose a significant threat in the upcoming election, with Emre Ilkan Saklica, director of the fact-checking project Teyit, highlighting the rapid spread of misinformation on social media. While there have been incidents leading up to the elections, involving candidates vying for various positions, the prevalence of “cheap fake” videos outweighs sophisticated AI-generated content.

The issue of disinformation has drawn criticism and debate, with concerns about the impact on the democratic process. The passage of a law in October 2022 aimed at combatting disinformation was met with mixed reactions, with critics arguing it could restrict access to information and deepen online censorship. Despite efforts by groups like Teyit to combat misinformation, the challenge of correcting false information that lingers in the public’s minds remains difficult.

As political campaigns intensify, the spread of fake content continues to be a prominent issue. While the origins of such disinformation are often difficult to trace, the impact on elections and public perception remains a cause for concern. In a landscape where misinformation spreads quickly, correcting false narratives becomes a challenging task for those striving to uphold truth and transparency.

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