A video on X purporting to show jailed former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan announcing his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's boycott of the ongoing general election in the country is viral online.
BOOM found that the audio is fake and has been created using an AI voice cloning tool to discourage voters from participating in the election. Neither Khan nor the PTI has made any announcements about withdrawing from the election.
The synthetic audio underscores concerns of artificial intelligence particularly deepfake technology being misused around the world to subvert electoral processes and spread disinformation.
Pakistan began voting for the general election on February 8, 2024, where Khan's PTI faced its biggest competition against Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, since Khan has been jailed since August 2023 for allegedly leaking state secrets, candidates backed by his party are running as independents against PML-N.
The post includes an audio clip of Khan purportedly talking about how his party has faced a "crackdown" during the run up to the elections. He accused the police and the election commission of selling out and said "we have no hopes of justice from anyone". He added, "Keeping these things in mind, we (PTI) have decided to boycott the 2024 elections. On February 8, the PTI's ticket holders and voters will not participate in the elections."
The video is being shared with the caption, "PTI announces election boycott as Imran Khan releases audio message from jail. Declaration of boycott in protest against retaliatory actions, sparking a wildfire-like situation in every direction."
BOOM found that the claims are false and the audio has been created using an AI voice cloning tool.
We scanned the verified X account of PTI and found that they had called this clip fake and said, "Petrified of the massive turnout tomorrow for General Elections, the controlled media is being used to run a fake news about PTI boycotting elections, along with running a fake audio!"
We also ran a portion of the audio clip through AI Voice Detector, a tool that determines how likely a voice is AI-generated. The tool estimated that there was a 59% chance that the voice was made using AI.
Contrary to the viral claims, we found that Imran Khan's verified X handle had shared a video where he could be seen encouraging people to vote for the elections and saying, "The elections are tomorrow. I want you to vote, and take everyone you know too because it is only through elections that you can change your and your child's lives."
The video was shared on February 7, 2024, a day before voting began with a caption that explained how the video was a pre-recorded message shot before Khan's imprisonment.
It is noteworthy that the PTI too has used AI-generated messaging in the past to further their election campaign. In December 2023, while Khan was still in jail, his party released a 4-minute AI-generated speech made by compiling footage from Khan's past rallies and other AI-generated images, essentially helping him address a virtual rally from jail.
Imran Khan's verified X handle has also been releasing AI-generated voice messages from Khan during the run up to the elections.