Delhi Police have arrested Eemani Naveen, a 24-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh, for allegedly creating the controversial deepfake video of Rashmika Mandanna, which went viral in November 2023. The accused is an engineering graduate from Guntur district’s Palaparru village, and police said he confessed to creating the deepfake video to gain followers for a fan page of Rashmika he had been running on Instagram.
According to the police, Naveen, who completed his B Tech from Chennai, had an interest in digital media and marketing. He had been working from home since March 2023, offering services online related to image editing on Photoshop, Instagram channel promotions, creating and editing YouTube videos, search engine optimisation etc. During interrogation, Naveen said that he had been running fan pages of Rashmika Mandanna and two other celebrities.
As he had relatively fewer followers on Rashmika’s fan page, he posted the deepfake to increase the follower count, which did go up from around 90,000 to 1.08 lakh in two weeks, according to a press note from Hemant Tiwari, Deputy Commission of Police, Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) Special Cell of Delhi police.
The deepfake video which went viral in November 2023 showed a woman in a black outfit entering an elevator. While the woman looked like Rashmika, the accused had purportedly used AI editing techniques to superimpose the actor’s face onto the original video of Zara Patel, a British-Indian social media content creator. The video was made with an intent to sexualise the actor without her consent
Rashmika had called the deepfake “extremely scary”, and called for action before more people were affected by such “identity theft.” Many actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and political parties including Congress had called for strict legal action against the creators of the video, which left many social media users anxious about the possible misuse of AI.
Scared by the social media outrage, Naveen deleted the deepfake from Instagram and also changed the name of the fan page, police said. They also said he deleted all the relevant digital data from his devices. The police said that Naveen was responsible for creating, uploading and circulating the deep fake video through various social media platforms.
The case is being investigated by the IFSO unit of the Delhi Police, based on a complaint from the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). The police said that more than 500 social media accounts related to the deepfake were analysed in a cyber lab, during which they traced the video to the Instagram account of Naveen.