Chinese Cyber Actors Exploit AI to Spread Propaganda Amid Escalating Threats

Chinese cyber actors are creating AI-generated videos featuring Russian women praising China's culture and progress as part of an intensifying influence and disinformation campaign. The campaign coincides with escalating cyber espionage efforts targeting the US and India, and increased disinformation ahead of key elections in over 50 countries in 2024.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Chinese Cyber Actors Exploit AI to Spread Propaganda Amid Escalating Threats

Chinese Cyber Actors Exploit AI to Spread Propaganda Amid Escalating Threats

Chinese cyber actors are creating AI-generated videos featuring Russian women praising China's culture and progress as part of an intensifying influence and disinformation campaign. These efforts coincide with escalating cyber espionage campaigns targeting the United States and India, as well as increased disinformation efforts ahead of key elections in over 50 countries in 2024.

Why this matters: The use of AI-generated content in disinformation campaigns poses a significant threat to the integrity of democratic processes and can have far-reaching consequences for global stability. As AI technology advances, it is essential for governments and tech companies to develop effective countermeasures to prevent the spread of false information and protect the democratic process.

Microsoft Corporation reported that Chinese actors exploited the 2023 Maui wildfires to spread conspiracy theories about the US Department of Defense testing a meteorological weapon. The Chinese accounts used generative artificial intelligence to create fake images and videos, which were then shared on social media platforms. This exemplifies the growing challenges posed by AI-generated disinformation and China's emergence as a formidable adversary in this domain.

Experts are sounding the alarm about the proliferation of alternative news platforms, government inaction on disinformation, and increased instances of public figures inciting violence ahead of the 2024 US presidential election. "It's a very precarious year for democracy," warned Mollie Saltskog, a research fellow at The Soufan Center. Jacob Ware, a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, cautioned that "conspiracy theories are a threat to vulnerable veterans, and they could drag your loved ones into really dark and dangerous places."

While China largely stayed on the sidelines during the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, its disinformation capabilities have grown significantly in recent years. In April, Microsoft warned that China was preparing to sow division during the 2024 campaign by using fake social media accounts to identify the most polarizing issues among Americans. Saltskog assessed that "the primary concern today in our assessment is Russia, China, and Iran, in that order."

Envoys from China and the US are set to meet to discuss the risks and management of artificial intelligence, although election interference is not explicitly on the agenda. A senior administration official stated, "If the conversation goes in a particular direction, then we will certainly continue to express those concerns and warnings about activity in that space." Russia is also positioned to ramp up its spread of falsehoods during the lead-up to the November election, likely focusing on divisive issues such as immigration and the US economy.

The FBI has expressed growing concern about foreign adversaries, particularly Russia, Iran, and China, leveraging AI to interfere in American elections and spread disinformation. AI-generated content has already been used in political campaigns, such as in Slovakia, where fabricated audio clips resembling a liberal party chief's voice circulated on social media before parliamentary elections. In the US, robocalls impersonating President Joe Biden urged New Hampshire voters to abstain from voting in the January 2024 primary election.

As the 2024 US presidential election approaches, the growing use of AI in election interference is a major concern for the FBI. China's increasing disinformation capabilities and willingness to target the US, coupled with Russia's ongoing efforts to sow division, underscore the urgent need for vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process. The proliferation of AI-generated content, such as the videos featuring Russian women praising China, highlights the evolving nature of the threat and the importance of international cooperation in addressing this challenge.

Key Takeaways

  • China uses AI-generated videos featuring Russian women to praise China's culture and progress.
  • AI-generated disinformation poses a significant threat to democratic processes and global stability.
  • China, Russia, and Iran are top concerns for election interference and disinformation in 2024.
  • FBI warns of growing concern about foreign adversaries using AI to interfere in American elections.
  • International cooperation is crucial to address the evolving threat of AI-generated disinformation.