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14 June 2024 : Indian Express Editorial Analysis


(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Editorial Page; Page: 10)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies– Interventions for development in various sectors GS3 – Science & Technology
  • The BJP’s failure to secure a predicted majority in the world’s largest election was one of several surprising outcomes.
  • Despite fears of an election cycle marred by AI-generated disinformation campaigns, the anticipated deepfake apocalypse did not materialize in India.
  • Instead, the introduction of cheap and fast synthetic media primarily altered political campaigning methods.

AI in Political Campaigning:

  • While AI technologies did revolutionize some aspects of political campaigning, they were mostly utilized for traditional political activities such as trolling opposition parties and targeted communication with constituencies.
  • Indian voters were exposed to a range of synthetic media, including voice clones, AI-generated videos, personalized audio messages in various Indian languages, automated calls using candidates’ voices, and AI-generated songs and memes.
  • These AI-generated contents were largely authorized by political parties, which collectively spent an estimated $50 million on these technologies. Emerging AI companies, previously catering to the entertainment industry, quickly adapted to meet this new demand.

Emotional Appeal and Regional Adaptation:

  • Hyper-realistic AI-generated content in India was crafted to evoke emotional responses. By translating content into regional languages, political parties were able to reach beyond the Hindi heartland, leveraging relational bonds with voters.
  • Notable examples included the resurrection of past political figures like Muthuvel Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa through deepfake videos and voice clones.
  • AI voice clones also enabled messages from incarcerated leaders like Arvind Kejriwal to be circulated by party members.
  • Additionally, over 50 million voters received AI-generated calls addressing local concerns, with AI avatars impersonating local representatives.

Rural Information Ecosystem:

  • The rural information ecosystem in India did not exhibit the same level of sophistication as its urban counterpart. Fact-checking unit Logically Facts reported that only four per cent of their 224 fact-checks between February and June 2024 involved AI-generated content.
  • Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and local aggregators like Moj and Public featured traditional forms of media, including cartoons, low-tech face-swaps, doctored content, and supercuts of local footage.
  • These often mocked or expressed frustration with the BJP’s “400 paar” slogan.
  • A notable example was a viral cartoon in Uttar Pradesh that critiqued Modi’s claim to divine power, depicting Lord Ram showing him the exit from the Ayodhya temple.

Emerging Trends and Ethical Considerations:

  • Two significant trends have emerged: the race to deliver content faster and more targeted in a permissive regulatory environment, and the ethical challenges posed by AI use in political campaigns.
  • AI start-ups such as Polymath Solutions (The Indian Deepfaker) and Muonium AI have committed to an “Ethical AI Coalition Manifesto,” pledging to protect data privacy and prevent the creation or distribution of harmful content.
  • However, as the post-election market expands, other start-ups may not adhere to the same ethical standards, potentially compromising the integrity of content.

AI and Participatory Democracy:

  • India’s experiment with AI has the potential to inaugurate a new era for AI in participatory democracy. Consensual uses of AI could enhance the accessibility, deliberation, and representativeness of democracy and governance.
  • Political campaigns have demonstrated how AI can facilitate individualized communication across diverse constituencies, making messages more accessible to rural, low-income, and low-literacy areas.
  • This recent proficiency in AI-led communication can evolve into a two-way dialogue, enabling voters to share their demands and experiences directly with their representatives at speed and scale.

Future of AI in Governance:

  • Globally, organizations like Bussola Tech and POPVOX Foundation are exploring AI applications in constituent relations within G20 parliaments and the US Congress.
  • In India, the government is already leveraging AI platforms to deliver services in local languages, though enhanced digital literacy in rural areas will be essential for the widespread adoption of these technologies.
  • Safe and ethical AI could strengthen democracy by enabling Parliament and elected officials to respond more effectively to grassroots needs and livelihoods.
How to Deal With the Impacts of AI on Elections?

  Issuing MCC-like Guidelines to Address the Misuse of AI:

  • The menace of misinformation has existed for a longer period, and the advent of AI technology has turbocharged the spread of fake news.
  • In the context of Lok Sabha elections 2024, one possible solution to AI-fueled misinformation would be guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India.
  • There is a need to Implement regulations that require transparency in the use of AI algorithms for political purposes.
  • This includes disclosing sources of funding for political advertisements and requiring platforms to disclose how algorithms determine the content users see.

Education and Media Literacy:

  • Invest in educational programs to teach citizens how to critically evaluate information online and identify disinformation and deep fakes.
  • Promote media literacy to help voters distinguish between credible and unreliable sources of information.

Enhanced Fact-Checking:

  • Establishing a Rapid Response Team to address the dissemination of fake news, deep fakes, and other forms of misinformation during elections is crucial.
  • While it’s inevitable that fake videos and misinformation will arise, the key lies in swiftly addressing them before they escalate and spread widely.
  • Strengthen fact-checking efforts by providing resources to independent organisations and journalists to verify the accuracy of information circulating online.
  • Develop AI-powered tools to identify and flag misleading content.

Counter-Narratives and Debunking Campaigns:

  • Launch public awareness campaigns that debunk false information and provide accurate counter-narratives.Utilise AI to identify trending misinformation and target counter-messages effectively.

Ethical AI Development:

  • Encourage the development of AI technologies with ethical considerations in mind, such as minimising bias, protecting privacy, and promoting transparency.
  • Establish standards and guidelines for the responsible use of AI in political contexts.

International Cooperation:

  • Foster collaboration between governments, tech companies, and international organisations to address the global challenges posed by AI-driven disinformation campaigns.
  • Share best practices and coordinate efforts to combat election interference across borders.  
PYQ: With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following? (2020)   1) Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units 2) Create meaningful short stories and songs 3) Disease diagnosis 4) Text-to-Speech Conversion 5) Wireless transmission of electrical energy Select the correct answer using the code given below:   (a) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only (b) 1, 3 and 4 only (c) 2, 4 and 5 only (d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5   Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of AI-generated synthetic media on the recent Indian elections. Reflect on the potential of AI in enhancing participatory democracy in India and the steps needed to ensure its ethical application in future electoral processes. (250 words/15 m)

2. Ineffective dispute resolution

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Ideas Page; Page: 11)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies– Interventions for development in various sectors
  • On June 3, the Finance Ministry of India announced a significant policy shift: the government decided to remove arbitration clauses from future contracts involving government or government-controlled entities, except for minor disputes valued at Rs 10 crore or less.
  • This move marks a departure from the long-standing effort to position India as an arbitration hub.

Policy Details and Implementation:

  • The new policy is outlined in an Office Memorandum, which directs government departments, entities, and agencies to “amicably settle as many disputes as possible” in the public interest, while considering legal and practical realities.
  • To facilitate these settlements, high-level committees composed of former judges and retired senior officials will be established.
  • If these settlement efforts fail, disputes will then be adjudicated by the courts.

Rationale for the Policy Change:

  • The core reason behind this policy shift is the government’s perception that arbitrators often lack integrity and collude with private parties, making it difficult to overturn arbitral awards given the limited legal grounds for challenging them.
  • This perception has led to the belief that arbitration is not a viable dispute resolution method for the government.

Criticisms of the New Policy:

  • The decision to abandon arbitration is fundamentally flawed and based on unrealistic expectations. It is likely to hinder infrastructure projects and the goal of achieving a five-trillion-dollar economy.
  • The government’s distrust in arbitrators overlooks the fact that arbitrators are supposed to be independent and impartial, and adverse decisions do not necessarily indicate corruption or bias but may reflect the government’s failure to meet its legal obligations.

Trust Issues and Decision-Making:

  • The government’s lack of trust in arbitrators, despite often appointing former Supreme Court or High Court judges to these roles, raises questions about its confidence in its officials to negotiate settlements.
  • Even with high-level committees approving settlements, the process remains voluntary and administrative, lacking the transparency and accountability of a judicial award.
  • This approach underestimates the complexities and challenges involved in settling disputes on a large scale.

Practical Challenges and Legal Realities:

  • The government may be overestimating its ability to settle disputes effectively. Government officials are accountable to multiple authorities and courts, making them hesitant to agree to significant liabilities.
  • This bureaucratic and legal caution could impede the settlement process, leading to more disputes being left unresolved.

Alternative Dispute Resolution and Economic Growth:

  • Arbitration, despite its imperfections, is more workable than court litigation for resolving commercial disputes.
  • Court proceedings are slow and overburdened, with challenges to arbitral awards already taking years to resolve.
  • Pushing private parties to take their disputes to court ignores these realities and undermines efficient dispute resolution, which is essential for economic growth.


  • The government’s policy change is short-sighted and needs swift reversal.
  • The decision to move away from arbitration without a viable alternative is likely to cause more harm than good, stalling economic projects and undermining investor confidence.
  • The government should instead focus on addressing its concerns about arbitration integrity and improving the arbitration process.
What is India’s Potential to Emerge as an Arbitration Hub?
  •   Economic Growth: As India’s economy expands, the volume of commercial disputes rises proportionately, necessitating robust arbitration mechanisms to resolve these conflicts efficiently.
  •   Impact of Technology: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a shift towards virtual arbitration hearings, significantly increasing the efficiency of ongoing integration of technology in arbitration processes.  
  • Legal Expertise: India boasts a pool of highly skilled lawyers, judges, and arbitrators who are well-versed in arbitration practices, providing a strong foundation for handling complex disputes.  
  • Legal Reforms: India has modernised its arbitration laws to align with global standards, including adherence to the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, enhancing its credibility as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction.  
  • Arbitration Institutions: The country is home to established arbitration centres such as the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), and the Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DIAC), which offer structured and professional environments for dispute resolution.
PYQ: What are the major changes brought in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 through the recent Ordinance promulgated by the President? How far will it improve India’s dispute resolution mechanism? Discuss. (2015)
Practice Question:  Analyze the recent decision by the Indian government to eliminate arbitration clauses from future contracts involving government and government-controlled entities, except for minor disputes. What are the potential implications of this policy shift on dispute resolution and economic growth in India? (250 words/15 m)

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