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Microsoft warns China is using AI-generated propaganda to influence US voters

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

A September report from Microsoft warned that Chinese operatives are using artificial intelligence-generated propaganda to influence United States voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Reuters reported.

Microsoft found a network of fake social media accounts operated by China. The corporation explained that the fraudulent accounts are using social media platforms to share AI-generated images as part of a suspected Chinese cyber information operation.

“Chinese online influence campaigns have long relied on sheer volume to reach users through networks of inauthentic social media accounts,” the report stated. “Since 2022, however, China-aligned social media networks have engaged directly with authentic users on social media, targeted specific candidates in content about US elections, and posed as American voters.”

According to Microsoft, the fake accounts share propaganda in the form of memes, videos, and messages in multiple languages. They also responded to comments from authentic users, it noted.

The report provided an example of a social media post featuring a Black Lives Matter graphic shared by a “CCP-affiliated automated account” and uploaded again several hours later by “an account impersonating a US conservative voter.”

Microsoft noted that the generative AI images the fraudulent accounts share are “relatively high-quality visual content” that have successfully “drawn higher levels of engagement from authentic social media users.”

“These images bear the hallmarks of diffusion-powered image generation and are more eye-catching than awkward visual content in previous campaign,” the report stated. “Users have more frequently reposted these visuals, despite common indicators of AI-generation — for example, more than five fingers on a person’s hand.”

Microsoft’s report provided an example of an AI-generated image of the Statue of Liberty holding a gun. In the image, the statue has more than five fingers. The report stated that the content was shared by a China-controlled account suspected to be involved in an information operation.

“Democratic & Freedoms,” the AI-image stated. “Everything is being thrown away. The goddess of violence.”

According to Microsoft, the fake accounts “show similar behavior to activity reportedly conducted by an elite group within [China’s] Ministry of Public Security (MPS) called the 912 Special Working Group.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters that the accounts are attempting to “mimic U.S. voters” while sharing politically charged content.

A Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington, D.C., told Reuters that Microsoft’s allegations were “full of prejudice and malicious speculation.” The spokesperson noted that China advocates for the safe use of AI, the outlet reported.

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