Delhi Police has arrested a 24-year-old engineering graduate from a Chennai College, self trained in editing photos and videos, for creating the sensational deep fake video of actor Rashmika Mandanna that took social media by storm in October last year.
The Guntur-native is believed to have been arrested under IPC sections 465 (punishment for forgery) and 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) and sections 66C and 66E of the Information Technology Act in this regard.
Section 66C is applicable in cases where someone tries to pass off as another person by making use of that person's signature, password etc., while 66E refers to the unauthorized sharing of the image of another person's private area.
The fake and edited video, where Rashmika's face was superimposed onto a British influencer, had gone viral, sparking a widespread condemnation. Soon after, Delhi Police's Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations unit registered a case.
The accused, identified as Eemani Naveen, arrested from his native place in Andhra Pradesh, claimed that he was a "big fan" of the South Indian actress and allegedly created the video to gain more followers on a fan page he had created on her.
The underlying video was uploaded by a British Indian woman on her Instagram account in October 2023 and later, a deepfake video of the film actress was created and circulated.
During the investigation, the police analysed more than 500 social media accounts related to the alleged deepfake videos.
"We even interrogated several social media account holders from all over India and collected relevant information. After the deep analysis and interrogation of suspected persons, finally the account of alleged was traced on Instagram," Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO), Hemant Tiwari, said in a press conference.
Investigations revealed that the deepfake video was posted four days after the original video.
"Once the accused was identified, a team was dispatched to Guntur, Andhra Pradesh from where Eemani Naveen was arrested," the officer said.
During the interrogation, Naveen revealed that he was a big Mandanna fan and ran a fan page just for her. He had also created two more fan pages of another two noted celebrities.
He was managing all three pages and uploading original videos. Followers of the fan page of the other two film stars were in lakhs but Mandanna's was only around 90,000.
"Just to increase the followers of the page, the accused Naveen created her deepfake video and posted it on the fan page. Due to this deepfake video, the fan following of this page was increased from 90,000 to 1,08,000 within two weeks," the DCP said.
Later, when Naveen realized that it became a national sensation and several celebrities had spoken against the creation of the video, he got spooked and deleted the post from the Instagram Channel. He also changed the name of the fan page and deleted relevant digital data from his devices to be on the safe side.
On further interrogation, the accused disclosed that, while pursuing B tech from Adhi college of Engineering and Technology, Chennai, he completed certification in Digital Marketing from Google Garage in 2019.
As Naveen got more interest in digital media, he studied courses like website development, photoshop, and video editing from YouTube.
He came back to the village in March 2023 and started working from home by providing services of Photoshop, Instagram channel promotion, YouTube video creation or editing and search engine optimization on a chargeable basis.