Doctored video of Indonesian president speaking in Mandarin circulates online

  • Published on November 2, 2023 at 10:24
  • 4 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
Indonesian authorities said a video apparently showing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo delivering a speech in Mandarin is a deep fake made using AI tools. The clip has racked up millions of views. AFP found the original clip shows the leader speaking in English during a gala in 2015.

The video has been viewed more than two million times after it was posted here on TikTok on October 26, 2023.

The one-minute and 21-second clip shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, delivering a speech in Mandarin.

Indonesian-language sticker text reads: "Jokowi is awesome. He can speak Mandarin."

Screenshot of the false post, taken on October 27, 2023

Historical anti-Chinese sentiment continues to be fueled by misinformation shared on social media in Muslim-majority Indonesia -- AFP has debunked such claims here, here and here (archived link).

Jokowi, who has forged closer ties with Beijing, has also been targeted with false anti-Chinese claims, debunked by AFP here and here (archived link).

The doctored video circulated as the country gears up for presidential elections in February 2024, where defence minister and candidate Prabowo Subianto has picked Jokowi's eldest son as his running mate.

The same video has also been viewed more than 74,000 times on YouTube, on Facebook, on SnackVideo, on TikTok here and here, as well as on X, formerly Twitter.

Comments left under the posts indicate some users believed the clip was genuine.

"This is real that he speaks in Mandarin. Look at his mouth movements," said one TikTok user.

"Our President is awesome. He can speak Mandarin," said another.

Screenshots of TikTok users' comments

But Indonesia's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has called the video a hoax.

In a statement released on October 26, 2023 on its official website, the ministry said the video was likely a deep fake edited using artificial intelligence (AI) tools (archived link).

In fact, the original video shows Jokowi giving a speech in English.

English speech

Reverse image and keyword searches on Google and Yandex found the doctored clip corresponds to a longer video published by an NGO called the U.S - Indonesia Society (USINDO) on October 26, 2015 titled "Oct. 26, 2015 - President Jokowi Delivers Speech at Gala Hosted by USINDO, US Chamber, and USABC" (archived links here and here).

The video was also published on the organization's website on the same date (archived link).

Both USINDO videos show Jokowi delivering the speech in English.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored clip (left) and the genuine video from USINDO (right):

Screenshot comparison of the doctored clip (left) and the genuine video from USINDO (right)

The president opened his speech: "Business guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good evening. It is an honor for me to be here today."

He went on to talk about Indonesia's commitments to ease business permits in the country and his meeting earlier that day with Barack Obama, the United States president at the time.

"We talked about many things. Many happy and serious things like the South China Sea ... I told President Obama and we announced today that Indonesia intends to join the TPP," he said.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an Obama-era trade agreement with 11 other countries which was signed but never ratified (archived link).

According to the US embassy in Indonesia, Jokowi met Obama at the White House on October 26, 2015, where the two leaders discussed topics including maritime and defense cooperation (archived link).

Close analysis of the doctored clip and the original video found scenes have been rearranged, for example to replace a shot of Jokowi laughing along with the audience in the USINDO video with a later one to make him appear as if he is silent and serious.

Incoherent Mandarin speech

An analysis of the purported Chinese speech in the altered video by a Mandarin-speaking AFP journalist found further elements that show it was likely generated using AI tools.

For example, the speech does not have a coherent topic, starting with a line about "fair treatment" before jumping to discuss the tea industry and finishing with an incoherent series of phrases about a "complicated issue".

The "voice" making the speech also mixes up the two pronunciations for the Mandarin word "行" which makes up the phrase “行業", meaning "industry". Instead of saying "hang ye", it uses the other pronunciation for the word, "xing" -- so it is pronounced "xing ye" in the manipulated video.

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