Home Chinese hackers increasingly using AI to interfere in elections – report

Chinese hackers increasingly using AI to interfere in elections – report


  • China employs AI-generated misinformation to interfere in foreign elections, per Microsoft.
  • Deepfakes fuel conspiracy theories like blaming the US for a train derailment and wildfires.
  • Chinese actors use AI to create fake news broadcasts and manipulate social media.

China is increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) powered forms of misinformation to interfere in foreign elections, according to a new report from Microsoft.

Deepfakes and other forms of AI-generated content are reportedly being deployed by Beijing to meddle in the affairs of the United States and Taiwan, with the research finding specific examples of manipulated imagery being pushed to fuel conspiracy theories that the US government intentionally caused a train derailment in Kentucky and wildfires in Maui, Hawaii in 2023.

With geopolitical tensions between Taiwan and China ongoing, the recent elections in the East Asian island provided the backdrop for interference. Microsoft detailed in the report how it observed Chinese actors creating AI-generated news broadcasts with fake presenters to spread misinformation to influence the elections.

Some of the content was said to be made using CapCut, an AI editing tool owned by ByteDance, the same parent company of TikTok which is currently the subject of action from US lawmakers with proposed legislation to effectively ban the popular video-hosting app in the states.

On the interference in Taiwan, the report noted “This was the first time Microsoft Threat Intelligence has witnessed a nation-state actor using AI content in attempts to influence a foreign election.”

Examples of Chinese hackers’ disinformation tactics

The campaign also honed in on individuals, with Microsoft finding “a notable uptick” in material featuring political figures in Taiwan, including prominent politicians such as Lai Ching-te. The president-elect and leading light in the country’s pro-independence party was at the center of various dirty tricks, including AI-generated memes showing him being charged and the party mired in corruption.

Another video depicted a woman claiming Lai had several mistresses and illegitimate children.

China-based campaigns are also said to have used sockpuppet social media accounts to create noise around topical issues such as climate change, immigration, and US foreign policy in Ukraine and Israel. Impersonation of American voters and the use of online polls to better understand the US electorate are tools being used for further exploitation ahead of the presidential election later this year.

However, the Microsoft report does not conclude the current level of AI-inspired disinformation is a game changer or of critical impact.

Image credit: Ideogram

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Graeme Hanna
Tech Journalist

Graeme Hanna is a full-time, freelance writer with significant experience in online news as well as content writing. Since January 2021, he has contributed as a football and news writer for several mainstream UK titles including The Glasgow Times, Rangers Review, Manchester Evening News, MyLondon, Give Me Sport, and the Belfast News Letter. Graeme has worked across several briefs including news and feature writing in addition to other significant work experience in professional services. Now a contributing news writer at ReadWrite.com, he is involved with pitching relevant content for publication as well as writing engaging tech news stories.

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