Putin quizzed by apparent AI version of himself during live phone-in

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his combine call-in-show and annual press conference on December 14, 2023 in Moscow, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked a question by what appeared to be an AI-generated “deepfake” of himself during a Q&A session with the public Thursday.

Putin held his annual phone-in with the Russian public, which was combined with his end-of-year news conference. It’s a closely followed event, but also a carefully orchestrated and curated affair, giving Russian citizens a chance to speak directly with the president on a range of issues.

Mr President, good afternoon, I am a student studying at St Petersburg Institute. Do you have a lot of twins? And another point, what is your attitude towards the dangers with neural networks and artificial intelligence?” the AI questioner asked, according to a live NBC News translation.

The question was met with laughter from the watching crowd, and a brief pause from a stern-looking Putin.

“I see you may resemble me and speak with my voice. But I have thought about it and decided that only one person must be like me and speak with my voice, and that will be me,” Putin responded.

The Kremlin recently dismissed long-standing speculation in the press and on social media that Putin uses body doubles at some events. Meanwhile, there is growing concern across the globe about the use of AI deepfakes to spread misinformation.

Deepfake” is a term used to describe an AI-created image, sound or video of a real person. This tech is being used to spread false information by doctoring images or audio of political figures and celebrities.

Putin, like other world leaders, is attempting to position Russia as a front-runner in AI technology at a time when countries around the globe are vying for a leadership position.

The U.S., China, and European Union are racing to dominate in AI — while also paying attention to the risks surrounding the technology — as it is becoming more and more advanced, with some AI-generated avatars now nearly indistinguishable from humans.

— CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt and Ryan Browne contributed to this article.

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