Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar becomes latest victim of viral deepfakes sweeping India

A wave of deepfake videos circulating online raises concerns ahead of elections in India

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 16 January 2024 14:08 GMT
Will Smith was deepfaked into The Matrix

Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has become the latest victim of deepfake videos amid growing concern about the rise of AI-generated content in the country ahead of its general election.

Tendulkar was seen in a deepfake video endorsing an online gaming app in a clip that has been widely circulated on social media.

The video falsely portrays Tendulkar endorsing the app and claims his daughter benefits financially from it.

The sports star took to social media to denounce the fake video and called for vigilance and swift action against spreading misinformation.

“These videos are fake. It is disturbing to see rampant misuse of technology. Request everyone to report videos, ads & apps like these in large numbers,” Tendulkar wrote on X, sharing the digitally altered video.

This is not the first time an Indian celebrity has warned about the impact of deepfakes. In the past few months Bollywood film stars such as Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and most recently Rashmika Mandanna have also been through similar experiences.

IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently announced that notices have been sent to all social media companies, instructing them to take necessary steps to identify and remove disinformation, particularly deepfakes, from their platforms.

The government is urging social media platforms to be proactive and aggressive in addressing the issue of deepfake content.

“Deepfake is a big issue for all of us. We recently issued notices to all the big social media firms, asking them to take steps to identify deepfakes, for removing those content. The social media platforms have responded. They are taking action. We have told them to be more aggressive in this work,” he said.

Deepfakes involve the digital alteration of one person’s likeness with that of another using AI technology. Deepfakes can be audio, video or even image-based.

In November last year, Mr Vaishnaw said the spread of deepfakes on social media platforms was a “new threat to democracy”.

This came after a deepfake video of actress Rashmika Mandanna went viral on social media and was labelled as a “form of misinformation”.

The video posted on social media showed an AI-fabricated video of Mandanna wearing a black dress and entering an elevator. But the original video was of British-Indian influencer Zara Patel, who has over 400,000 followers on Instagram.

Mandanna said in a statement posted on X that the issue must be addressed with “urgency”.

“Today, as a woman and as an actor, I am thankful for my family, friends and well wishers who are my protection and support system. But if this happened to me when I was in school or college, I genuinely can’t imagine how could I ever tackle this,” she said.

Deepfakes featuring personalities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Virat Kohli, and Akshay Kumar have been identified in advertisements and sponsored posts on social media in India.

In one instance, Shah Rukh Khan is depicted in a deepfake video promoting a game called “Aviator”, while Virat Kohli’s deepfake is found endorsing a betting game. Infosys chief Narayana Murthy was also targeted. Another deep fake video showcased renowned journalist Ravish Kumar endorsing a diabetes medicine.

Manipulating content for commercial purposes through the use of deepfake technology raises several ethical concerns, as it has the potential to mislead audiences. Taking into account the seriousness of the issue, prime minister Narendra Modi also emphasised the importance of understanding how AI operates, expressing concern over its potential use in creating deepfakes.

In November last year, Mr Modi called the misuse of deepfake technology “worrying”, citing an example of a fake video of him performing the traditional Gujarati dance of garba.

With elections around the corner, fears over deepfakes and manipulating voters are at an all-time high. Mr Modi said that “people can fall prey to believing what they see to be true… and this will lead us towards a major crisis”.

In 2023, an estimated 500,000 video and voice deepfakes were shared globally on social media, according to DeepMedia, a company specialising in detecting synthetic media.

Major platforms like Meta and Google have pledged to address synthetic media by removing or labelling content that could be misleading. Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said “manipulation is not apparent and could mislead, particularly in the case of video content”.

Google, which owns YouTube, said the platform requires “creators to disclose altered or synthetic content that is realistic, including using AI tools, and we’ll inform viewers about such content through labels”.

Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at advocacy group Access Now told The Hindu last year: “Platforms are not set up to handle problems, and they are not being responsive and proactive enough. And that’s a very dangerous sign.”

“There is a danger that the world’s attention is only on the US election, but the standards being applied there, the effort being made there should be duplicated everywhere.”

​​In Bangladesh, ahead of the 7 January polls in which prime minister Sheikh Hasina won her fourth consecutive term, deepfake videos featuring women politicians Rumin Farhana in a bikini and Nipun Roy in a swimming pool had emerged on social media.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, as over 200 million voters prepare for the 14 February polls, deepfakes featuring all three presidential candidates and their running mates are circulating online.

“Deepfakes are definitely one of the big here-and-now problems of AI,” London-based technology expert, author and start-up mentor Jaspreet Bindra told India Today last month.

In addition to celebrities, prominent global figures, ranging from Pope Francis to former American presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have become the targets of deep fakes.

According to, a visual threat intelligence company based in the Netherlands, there has been a significant surge in fake videos online since 2018, with the numbers roughly doubling every six months. As of December 2020, the company identified 85,047 fake videos circulating on the internet.

According to the 2023 State of Deepfakes report by Home Security Heroes, a US-based organisation, the proliferation of online deepfake videos has seen a remarkable surge of 550 per cent, totalling a staggering 95,820.

The report notes India as the sixth most susceptible country to this growing threat.

Jency Jacob, managing editor of Boom, a leading fact-checking website which has been closely studying the issue, told Deutsche Welle last month that deepfake videos are becoming a cause of worry, especially during election season.

“Governments around the world are still working on a policy response but we are yet to see anything that sounds like a plan. The Indian government has also shared its concerns and it will be interesting to see how they use existing laws and new provisions to protect victims,” he said.

Last week, the minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, informed social media companies that the government intends to establish regulations regarding deepfakes by issuing amendments to the IT Rules within the next seven to 10 days, the Hindustan Times reported.

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