Is it Azmin or a deepfake?

Philip Golingai, The Star

DEEPFAKE. It is the buzzword in Malaysia since the appearance of the sex tryst video allegedly involving a Cabinet minister.

Deepfake, according to, is “an AI-based technology used to produce or alter video content so that it presents something that didn’t, in fact, occur. The word, which applies to both the technologies and the vi­deos created with it, is a portmanteau of deep learning and fake”.

“Because deepfakes are created through AI (artificial intelligence), they don’t require the considerable skill that it would take to create a realistic video otherwise. That means that just about anyone could create a deepfake to promote their chosen agenda,” it stated.

For some who watched the Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz confession video, he looked like a computer-generated head where words were put into its mouth.

Haziq, who is a private secretary of Deputy Primary Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, confessed that he was one of the men in the sex tryst video and he alleged that Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was the other man.

Debate on WhatsApp and Twitter raged on whether it was Haziq or was it just a talking head. Haziq’s eyes and mouth were animated, there were breathing movements on his chest but his shoulder did not move in the 35-second clip he allegedly posted on YouTube.

To add to the intrigue, Santubong PKR chief Ahmad Nazib Johari insisted on Wednesday that his Youth wing chief Haziq was not the man in the confession video.

“Three days ago, I noticed Haziq’s hair was short and his body was not as big as the man in the video,” Ahmad Nazib said in a Facebook posting.

Some argued that it was Haziq as there was no reason for him or those behind the sex video to use deepfake to generate a confession video.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the lewd videos implicating Azmin were “cooked up”.

“This is done by people who have political agendas,” said Dr Mahathir, who has expe­rience in such matter as the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sodomy case happened in the 1990s when he was Prime Minister for the first time.

The Prime Minister said people were able to produce any kind of pictures they wanted to if they were clever enough to do it.

I’m told ­­­­­­­– as I did not watch the sex video clips as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has warned Internet users to refrain from uploading or sharing content that contains pornographic elements – that the lewd “action” looked fake.

The men, especially the one who allegedly resembles Azmin, I’m told, were “tidak bermaya” (lifeless) when they were deep in the throes of passion.

The Azmin character was more interested in listening to a BBC news report about elite soldiers protecting French Guinea whose precious ecosystem is under threat from illegal gold mining than receiving pleasure.

The movements of the actors – I’m told –were not “rakus dan liar” (voracious and wild, a phrase used by victim Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in the Sodomy 2.0 case).

Some swear that the video is real as the face of the actors is clear, especially in the second video which has higher resolution than the first three videos.

I covered both Sodomy 1.0 and Sodomy 2.0.

“What’s the feeling being a reporter in 1998 versus now in 2019 concerning the sodomy scandals?” my friend Desonny asked me via WhatsApp.

“Probably the same excitement (on the political plot to bring down a powerful politician using sodomy). But the difference is the quickness we received information. Back then there was no WhatsApp. We only got information via poison letter. And we did not even get a photograph,” I said.

Technology has advanced since Sodomy 1.0. In that case, the star witness was a soiled mattress.

In 2011, it advanced to using a makeup artist to make a man resemble Anwar in the infamous sex video with a China Doll.

To prove that the Anwar character was played out by an actor, Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul of PKR travelled to Bangkok to get a makeup artist to make him look like legendary film star and singer P. Ramlee. It was an arduous process which took more than four hours.

Whether deepfake technology was used in the latest sex tryst video, the gameplay is the same. It is so 1990s.

The gameplay – which Azmin described as a “nefarious plot” – is to bring down a political opponent using sex scandal. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

For example, Anwar was jailed for sodomising Saiful. Later, he received a royal pardon.

For example, in 2013, a heavyweight PAS leader survived the “big suspender” sex video, when he denied that it was him.

In 2012, Azmin, who was then Selangor Mentri Besar, too survived allegations – with photographs – that someone resembling him received oral sex from a woman.

Sooner or later, we will know whether this sordid sex tryst video clip is deepfake or deeptruth.