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Karnataka MLAs cite ‘viral deepfakes’ of Obama in plea to restrain media after Jarkiholi case

Six Karnataka MLAs moved court seeking injunction against media. Plea was filed days after former minister Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned following allegations of sexual harassment.

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Bengaluru: Deepfake videos of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth went viral too — this is the example ministers of B.S. Yediyurappa-led government in Karnataka cited in a city court last week, while seeking an injunction against newspapers and TV channels from publishing or broadcasting anything defamatory against them.

The six MLAs — B.C. Patil, H.T. Somashekhar, K. Sudhakar, Narayan Gowda and Byrathi Basavaraj — told the court that they could become a victim of conspiracy and character assassination just like former US president Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth using artificial intelligence and morphing.

The MLAs, in their petition, said they feared fake CDs involving them could be released by some local Kannada channels.

The petition was filed days after former minister Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned after the emergence of a CD led to allegations that he had demanded sexual favours from a woman on the promise of a job opportunity. Social activist Dinesh Kalahalli had filed a police complaint against Jarkiholi in the matter.

The petition

The MLAs, in their petition, claimed that there have been multiple attempts to defame them by circulating information or telecasting news that raises “negative images, character assassination or creating sarcastic views on them and levering baseless and unverified allegations against them….including showing footage and pictures involving or referring to them in a negative spectrum.”

Citing example of deepfake videos of Queen Elizabeth and former US president Barack Obama, the MLAs said similar videos of Indian politicians have also gone viral and people who are unaware of fake news are likely to believe that these videos are true.

“Recently by process of a deep fake using artificial intelligence, videos of worldwide politicians such as Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth have been morphed and have gone viral. Similar videos of some Indian politicians have also been made. Innocent people who are unaware of such process tend to believe the videos and its contents to be true,” the petition read.

Submitting printouts with video grabs of two local Kannada channels that aired the alleged sex video of Jarkiholi, the MLAs said media houses claimed they had 19 more CDs of influential persons that “may be released anytime”.

They MLAs also added that the petitioners held high offices in the government and such news could cause “irreparable injury to their reputation and also cause loss of respect in society and in their own families.”

Also read: Ramesh Jarkiholi isn’t first. Karnataka’s politicians have habit of landing in sex scandals

What the court said

The court in its order observed that while the media has the right to freedom of expression, the plaintiffs have the right to be protected against character assassination on the basis of unverified material.

The court order, a copy of which is with ThePrint, prohibited media channels from publishing or telecasting any material, including on social media, that could discredit the reputation of these leaders. The MLAs sought the injunction order from the court on 6 March, 48 hours after Jarkiholi stepped down on moral grounds.

Jarkiholi, who stepped down as minister on 3 March, had said the videos purportedly showing him with a woman were fake and vowed to send the ‘conspirators’ behind bars.

Six days days after the scandal broke, the activist withdrew his complaint claiming the victim was being slandered and had been receiving death threats .

The ruling BJP government instituted a six-member SIT on 10 March to probe the allegations.

Also read: This seer-turned-swindler claimed proximity to BJP & duped politicians, actors, businessmen


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