Muharrem Ince Deepfake: How a Fake Sex Tape Shook Up Turkey’s Elections

Muharrem Ince Deepfake: How a Fake Sex Tape Shook Up Turkey’s Elections. Turkey is gearing up for a historic presidential election on Sunday, May 14, 2023. The race is expected to be a tight one, with polls showing a neck-and-neck contest between the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. But the election took an unexpected twist when a third candidate, Muharrem Ince, withdrew from the race just days before the vote, citing a deepfake sex tape as the reason.

Who is Muharrem Ince?

Muharrem Ince Deepfake: How a Fake Sex Tape Shook Up Turkey’s Elections
Muharrem Ince / CC BY-SA 4.0

Muharrem Ince was a former school teacher and a longtime member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition party in Turkey. He had run for president twice before, losing to Erdogan in 2018. He then formed his own party, the Homeland Party, and announced his candidacy for the 2023 election. He claimed to offer a “third way” for Turkey, between Erdogan’s authoritarianism and Kilicdaroglu’s liberalism.

However, his campaign was derailed when an alleged sex tape of him surfaced online, showing him in a compromising position with an unknown woman. Ince denied the authenticity of the video, saying it was a deepfake created from footage taken from “an Israeli porn site”. He said it was part of a smear campaign to discredit him and influence the election outcome. He also accused Russia of meddling in Turkey’s elections, saying Moscow was backing Erdogan.

Despite his denials, Ince decided to withdraw from the race, saying he was doing it for his country. He urged his supporters to vote for Kilicdaroglu, who is leading a six-party opposition coalition against Erdogan. Kilicdaroglu welcomed Ince’s move and invited him to join his alliance. He also denounced the deepfake video as a “plot” and a “montage” aimed at sabotaging his campaign.

What are the implications of the deepfake scandal?

The deepfake scandal has raised questions about the role of technology and misinformation in politics. Deepfakes are realistic AI-generated videos of people saying or doing things they haven’t done. They can be used for entertainment, education, or malicious purposes. Experts warn that deepfakes pose a threat to democracy and security, as they can undermine trust, spread false information, and manipulate public opinion.

The Turkish election is a test case for how deepfakes can affect electoral outcomes and public perceptions. It remains to be seen whether Ince’s withdrawal will benefit Kilicdaroglu or Erdogan, or whether it will have any impact at all. The only thing that is certain is that Turkey’s future hangs in the balance.