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Divyendra Jadoun is proud of his professional alias: the Indian Deepfaker. 

“I know we do deepfakes,” he tells Sky News. “Why would I use something else?”

And Jadoun’s services have been in demand recently, as India holds elections – often billed as the biggest democratic election on the planet.

Deepfakes have been a feature, in some surprising ways. On occasion, they have been malicious. Bollywood actors have been falsely depicted criticising PM Narendra Modi, or endorsing a political party.

Jadoun says: “We received a lot of requests, from November, October. And out of those requests, around 45 to 50% requests were for unethical [deepfakes]. And these are two kinds of requests.

“One is to swap the face of the political leader and put it into some controversial video that might harm his image. The second type of unethical [deepfake] is to create the clone of, the voice of the opponent leader and make him say something that he has never said.”

“This is the first time that we are going to see the deployment of deepfakes on a large scale. Even for us, it’s a new thing.

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“We do not know how much it will impact or whether it will have an impact or not.”

Pic: AP
Image:
Pic: AP

Others point to the low numbers of views those deepfake videos tend to receive, along with the speed at which they get debunked – and say that the impact of deepfakes has been, perhaps unexpectedly, positive.

“There was a fear that deepfake type of things would be more used for adversarial content, whereas what we are seeing is the opposite,” explains Joyojeet Pal, associate professor of information at the University of Michigan.

“The artificially generated content is much more being used by the campaigns of politicians in their own interest.”

Witness the resurrection of M Karunanidhi, a politician who died in 2018. A deepfake of him was created by technologist Senthil Nayagam and subsequently put on the campaign trail, endorsing various candidates.

“We accidentally started the trend with this video,” Nayagam tells Sky News.

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Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

The Indian Deepfaker has worked on another system that shows the potential innovation of deepfakes.

“We are doing a conversational agent where you will get a call in the voice of a leader. It will be saying that I am an AI-generated avatar of this leader, and he will be taking the name of the person,” he says.

“He will be asking ‘What are your local issues in your area?’ or ‘What are your suggestions to the government?’ – and every call will be recorded.

“It will then be transcribed and it will be filtered out based on different questions, so that the government or the political parties can make manifestos or can create schemes according to the problem.”

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From April: Is India’s Narendra Modi popular?

There are still pitfalls. Jadoun is worried about deepfakes spreading through the messaging system WhatsApp rather than the open internet, where they are easier to debunk. WhatsApp is where more traditional misinformation has spread, according to Amber Sinha.

“I think it’s also been early days, in terms of [the deepfake] use case in India,” he tells Sky News.

“There have been other modes of content, for instance, doctored images, Photoshopped images that have been prevalent, particularly on WhatsApp groups, for much longer in India.”

WhatsApp is, for many people in India, simply the internet. Platforms that dominate in other democracies remain niche. Take ad spending on Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram (and WhatsApp, although it doesn’t show ads).

The ruling BJP is clearly dominating, according to the data provided by Who Targets Me. But compare that to US spending.

The US isn’t even holding an election – at least not yet – and it is comfortably outspending India.

And Pal argues that other platforms have now caught up with WhatsApp.

“WhatsApp groups were the big player in the fairly recent elections as well,” he says. “YouTube is either at par or more important than WhatsApp right now.”

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The most novel digital development of this election, he argues, is the emergence of YouTube influencers.

Earlier this month, for example, Curly Tales, a food blogger with more than three million followers, featured the chief minister of Maharashtra on her channel. And politicians have been making concerted attempts to woo influencers across the board.

File pic: AP
Image:
AP file pic

“The most surprising thing about the campaign has been the emergence of digital influencers over professional journalists as the interviewers in the campaigns themselves,” Pal says.

“As opposed to a professional journalist who might be fairly educated about policy and can ask a politician aggressive questions about what is or is not working about their platform, a digital influencer doesn’t have that ability.”

For all the innovation, deepfakes and influencers do perhaps open up an information gap – one where doubt and misinformation can spread, inadvertently or not.

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide - as 'major destruction' hampers rescue efforts

More than 2,000 people have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster agency has said.

The landslide levelled the mountainous Kaokalam village in Enga Province – about 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

It hit the Pacific nation at around 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier said it estimated 670 people had been killed. Local officials had initially put the number of dead at 100 or more.

People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP
Image:
People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre said the landslide had buried more than 2,000 people.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” an official from the national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations.

Earlier, Serhan Aktoprak, head of the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, said the figure of 670 deaths was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 homes had been buried. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he said.

More than 4,000 people were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian group CARE Australia said earlier.

It said the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

About six villages were affected by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three bodies were pulled from an area where 50 to 60 homes were destroyed. Six people, including a child, were pulled from the rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said.

But hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

Pic: AP
Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)
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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through the landslide. Pic: AP

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP
Image:
Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200 sq km (77 sq miles), cutting off road access, which was making relief efforts difficult. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

Survivors searched through tonnes of earth and rubble by hand looking for missing relatives while a first emergency convoy delivered food, water and other provisions on Saturday.

However, Mr Aktoprak added: “Hopes to take the people out alive from the rubble have diminished now.”

In February, at least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

Mr Marape has said disaster officials, the defence force and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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A damaged house after the landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
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Locals carry their belongings away from the scene of the landslide. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of around 10 million, is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activity occurs.

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In March, the country was hit by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The US and Australia are building closer defence ties with the strategically important nation, while China is also seeking closer security and economic ties.

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said their governments stood ready to help respond to the landslide.

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

Four girls aged between nine and 17 were stabbed in an “unprovoked” attack at a cinema in Massachusetts, US police have said.

A 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found stabbed in a McDonald’s restaurant in an incident that may be connected, according to officers.

A man, whose identity has not been released, was taken into custody following a vehicle chase that ended in a crash in Sandwich, Cape Cod.

Police said a man came into the AMC Braintree 10 complex, south of Boston, at about 6pm local time on Saturday and entered one of the movie theatres without paying.

“Without saying anything and without any warning, he suddenly attacked the four young females,” the Braintree police department said in a statement.

“The attack appeared to be unprovoked. After the attack, the man ran out and left in a vehicle.”

The girls sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in Boston for treatment.

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The suspect’s vehicle – what appeared to be a black SUV – and number plate was seen on camera, police said.

A vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle was later seen in Plymouth, about 27 miles south of Braintree.

Police said it had left a McDonald’s restaurant, where a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were found stabbed and both were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Police found the vehicle another 20 miles south, in Sandwich, and attempted to pull it over, but it didn’t stop and later crashed.

The driver was taken into custody shortly afterward and was being treated at a hospital.

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

Eight people have been taken to hospital due to turbulence on a flight to Dublin.

Dublin Airport said six passengers and six crew members on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were hurt after experiencing turbulence over Turkey.

In a later statement, the airport said all passengers were assessed for injury before getting off the plane and eight were taken to hospital.

Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, told Sky News the aircraft was met by emergency services upon landing shortly before 1pm on Sunday.

The scene at Dublin Airport

Qatar Airways described the injuries sustained by passengers and crew as “minor”.

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention… The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation into what happened has now been launched.

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Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a British man died on a Singapore Airlines flight after extreme turbulence on a Heathrow-Singapore journey.

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Singapore Airlines passenger Josh Silverstone describes ordeal

Turbulence is defined as a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

It can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them, Sky News weather producer Jo Robinson said.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

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This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Qatar Airways flight went through.

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