Fraud in the age of AI

David Bullard on the deep faked Johann Rupert, Elon Musk, Nicky Oppenheimer YouTube scam


I was thrilled to learn last week that there is absolutely no excuse for poverty in this country. We have all been fooled by the ANC who are using poverty as part of their electioneering campaign. After all, if a substantial number of the electorate remain hungry and poor they will have no alternative but to vote for the party dangling welfare payments in front of them as a voting incentive.

Only last week Pres Frogboiler was bragging at the 112th birthday celebrations that the ANC is a ‘pro-poor’ party and that 28 million South African citizens (some of them dead apparently) receive welfare grants. This is terrific news indeed and gives me enormous hope for the future of this country. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Only an embittered land thief would be unsporting enough to point out that the number of income tax taxpayers is around the 7 million mark and there is surely some imbalance here which may cause a few headaches down the line. This typically colonialist approach to public funding is precisely the sort of attitude preventing South Africa from becoming a thriving Socialist Utopia like Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

But back to the wonderful revelation that poverty is about to be eradicated for all in SA. And not by the ANC as it happens but by a group of leading, predominantly white businessmen who have come up with a way to give every household in SA a monthly income of at least R100 000. It can be even better than that. According to the info I have seen it might even amount to R80 000 a week for a modest initial outlay of R4 700.

Let me give you the background. On a couple of occasions last week I went on to YouTube to view a video of flooding in the UK or Douglas Murray having a rant about Hamas but before the video began Gareth Edwards of eNCA or Frances Herd (late of SABC) appeared on my screen to tell me that the ANC were trying to suppress a wealth creation scheme sponsored by Johann Rupert, Elon Musk, Nicky Oppenheimer and others.

What nonsense I thought until I saw a moving and lengthy interview with Johann Rupert followed by Nicky Oppenheimer. In another video Elon Musk was outlining how he had personally spent $5 billion dollars developing powerful software; a world first. In another interview with Gareth Edwards Nicky Oppenheimer admits to having spent 3 billion on the programme but doesn’t specify which currency.

In yet another interview we learn that, despite earlier claims that the ANC were trying to shut down the programme it appears that they now support it. As Johann Rupert is quoted as saying “How could you not trust a project that has the support of the entire parliament? Besides, we really want to support our citizens in this difficult time and tell them you are not alone. The richest people in the country will help you solve your problems. No-one has ever supported South Africans as much as we do”

So it must be true because I saw it with my own eyes. Credible and respected news presenters interviewing top business people. The words coming out of their mouths promising enormous riches for us all. Why would they lie? And would it be so difficult to click on the link below and send R4 700 just to get the ball rolling?

Well, obviously this is a huge scam but the biggest surprise to me is how YouTube can possibly consider carrying it? This is the social media platform that banned people who questioned the official COVID narrative a couple of years ago. This is the outfit that decides what is and what is not hate speech and bans content that might be triggering to gender confused people with blue hair and multiple body piercings.

Are Messrs Rupert, Oppenheimer and Musk even aware that their image is being manipulated for what is clearly a fraud and, if so, have they done anything about it? Indeed, can they do anything about it because communicating with any social media platform involves dealing with a robot and provides very few answers.

Far more sinister though is the use of Artificial Intelligence and the creation of what is known as ‘deep fakes’. This is when a digital image is manipulated and made to say whatever its creators choose it to say. So the footage of Johann Rupert was almost certainly originally a genuine interview at some point.

But it’s now possible to use the same footage to manipulate the mouth to move in such a way as to say something completely different. Then it’s a simple matter of getting a voice over artist to impersonate the speaker although it’s apparently possible to synthesise somebody’s speech patterns too. The ‘scam’ videos were obviously done to a tight budget because the words aren’t perfectly lip-synced to the video and the Johann Rupert voice differs depending on which video you are watching. But they must be fooling somebody because YouTube wouldn’t be running them and attracting advertising if nobody was biting.

The obvious implications with looming elections all around the world are clear. Can we trust anything we see and hear anymore? And would democracies like the US and the UK resort to using ‘deep-fakes’ to further their ends? You bet they would. We only need to look at the behaviour of the UK government during COVID under Boris Johnson to know that UK politicians can be every bit as scheming and sleazy as our

very own ANC government. When I learnt about the UK ‘nudge unit’, which was a secret operation set up to influence public thinking by hook or by crook during COVID I knew we were already in Orwell land.

While it might be counterproductive to use deep-fakes with your own party candidates it certainly wouldn’t be impossible to imagine a political party in some pre-election stress using deep-fake sorcery to put words into the mouths of an opposition party member.

Since both the Conservatives and the Democrats are looking decidedly shaky at the moment it’s quite possible that some mad genius at party headquarters will get busy creating fake videos and distributing them on social media. Research shows that 78% of people on social media believe everything they see and read (actually, I made that statistic up but if I say it with a straight face it will be believed by 54% of people.)

Fortunately, this is not a problem that South African voters should be worried about. Over the years we have learnt to distrust most of the things our politicians say (such as an end to load shedding by Christmas 2023 or a crackdown on government corruption) so there would be little point in creating deep-fakes when we already have so many ‘deep-fakes’ drawing fat salaries and swanning around in luxury cars at the tax-payer’s expense.


We’ve all heard of cash in transit heists but recently I was made aware of an entirely new threat - cabbages in transit heists. Last week Paul Mashatile (the deputy president no less) set out with his entourage to plant vegetables to feed 20 hungry families in Mpumalanga. That’s going to make a huge impact given what we are led to believe is a chronic hunger problem in many parts of the country.

The news footage from Newzroom Afrika posted on Twitter shows no less than four police vehicles pulling into Mafu High School, blue lights flashing like crazy. They were followed by a convoy of eight very shiny and increasingly expensive black BMW’s and then a final cop car just to make sure the cabbages didn’t go astray.

Given the immense and quite unnecessary third world despot show of force maybe they should have been planting bananas. Fortunately nobody was beaten up by Mr Mashatile’s security detail this time around.