Fact-Check: How Deepfake Audio was used to Frame Atiku, Okowa, Others over 2023 Elections
Claim: An alleged “leaked audio” widely shared on WhatsApp, Facebook and other Social Media platforms claimed that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar alongside his running mate and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa and Campaign Director General who is Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal were bursted in a secret meeting where they were planning to rig the 2023 presidential election in favor of Atiku.
Another viral clip on WhatsApp in Hausa language claimed Atiku connived with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele on Monetary redesign policy against the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Full-Text: On facebook, the audio in which the claim was made was accompanied by the caption: “Atiku, Okowa, Tambuwal plan to rig this election. Hear their conversations.”
PRNigeria observed that the post, at the time of carrying out this fact-check, has generated over 6,000 views, 496 shares, and 330 likes.
The viral voice recording which purports to make comments about the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been circulating on social media in Nigeria and causing stir among the electorates a day to the Presidential Election.
A facebook user, Yusuf Dauda Olanrewaju reacted thus; “this is serious. This is a criminal conspiracy which the DSS must investigate. Nobody should be above the law. And 2 out of these cr!m!nǎls are Alhajis. Bunch of Munaafiqun and Kaffiris.”
Another user, Salihu Umar, stated, “thank God for this timely revelation.God is solidly behind BAT.However all APC agents/members must be very vigilant during all the election process till Asiwaju is declared victorious.
Meanwhile, in the second audio clip obtained and analysed by PRNigeria, a certain “Alhaji” claimed he had met with Mr Abubakar in both Dubai and Saudi Arabia and the later had promised him that he would not sack Emfiele if he emerged President.
He also claimed Mr Atiku would grant them an “oil and gas” licences while also enabling them to retain their “dollar business.”
He however lamented that an attempt to meet with Mr Tinubu proved abortive due to his “care and concern for Arewa the (North).”
Verification: Using speech recognition freeware, PRNigeria extracted the audio clips and tried to convert it to text for analysis against Atiku, Tabuwal and Okowas previous speeches, but the result was not so satisfactory as certain transcribed words didn’t match any information that could link to a credible media source or whistleblower.
PRNigeria then deployed a digital forensic expert who observed that the sequence and transition of the speeches of the purported individuals was highly unstable and not of the same enviroment/meeting room as being portrayed.
Similarly, it was observed that the voices at various points came with high or low tones, sharper sounds and sometimes concentrated pitch typical of a microphone usage in a broadcast environment which suggests either cloning with Artificial Intelligence or extraction of different words from various broadcast material of the individuals involved to make up the sentences against each of them to arrive at a deepfake.
Furthermore, PRNigeria‘s Audio Adobe Audition specialist carefully listened to the voice-over and observed that the background sound of the clip was noisy as against what it would have been if it was a physical meeting as purported.
This he explains could be Electromagnetic interference (EMI), also called radio-frequency interference (RFI) when in the radio frequency spectrum, is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction
However, technology experts have now come forward to debunk the recording, pointing out irregularities that prove it is a fake, generated using sophisticated A.I. software that can mimic the sound and intonation of any human voice. They cited online services like www.respeecher.com and www.Resemble.ai which clone speech that are indistinguishable from the original
Further analysis of the other claim against Mr Atiku shows that while the narrator claimed the Hausa clip was released by a known media organisation, but all digital traces showed no footprint of the content that could be linked to any media credible known media organisation.
Similarly, the release source is unidentifiable as it is not known to have come from any whistleblower or published by conventional media. Also, the characters in the clip lacked identity.
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate for PDP, Atiku Abubakar has condemned and debunked the viral audio describing it as “utter rubbish.”
“For the record, Atiku has run in two presidential elections and has never been indicted or prosecuted for election violence or vote buying.
“It is unfortunate that those seeking power will engage in outdated defeatist tactics. How can Tambuwal be referring to Atiku by his full name in a one-on-one private conversation? This is nonsensical, similar to the type of meaningless chatter about President Muhammadu Buhari being dead and replaced by one Jubril from Sudan,” the statement said.
Deepfake voice, also called voice cloning or synthetic voice, uses AI to generate a clone of a person’s voice. The technology has advanced to the point that it can closely replicate a human voice with great accuracy in tone and likeness.
The audio deepfake is a type of artificial intelligence used to create convincing speech sentences that sound like specific people saying things they did not say. This technology was initially developed for various applications to improve human life.
Audio can be deepfaked too, to create “voice skins” or ”voice clones” of public figures. Fraudsters used voice-cloning in mimicking voices of business people for extortions.
PRNigeria observes that deepfakes have been used legitimately for entertainment, parody and awareness campaigns. Meanwhile the technology is being misused to spread fake news and hate speech during political campaigns.
Conclusion: Both clips on the PDP presidential candidate lack credible verifiable sources and cannot be traced to any whistle blower or conventional media as would have been the case in the event of such leaks. Similarly, forensic experts have identified defects in the clip which it cocludes is a deepfake which was either doctored or cloned using AI.
PRNigeria therefore concludes that there is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE to prove that Atiku, Okowa, Tambuwal, Emifiele and INEC has conspired against the 2023 presidential election.
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