WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES — The “news broadcasters” appear stunningly real, but they are AI-generated deep fakes in first-of-their-kind propaganda videos that a research report published Tuesday attributed to Chinese state-aligned actors.
The fake anchors — for a fictitious news outlet called Wolf News — were created by artificial intelligence software and appeared in footage on social media that seemed to promote the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, US-based research firm Graphika said in its report.
“This is the first time we’ve seen a state-aligned operation use AI-generated video footage of a fictitious person to create deceptive political content,” Jack Stubbs, vice president of intelligence at Graphika, told AFP.
In one video analyzed by Graphika, a fictitious male anchor who calls himself Alex critiques US inaction over gun violence plaguing the country. In the second, a female anchor stresses the importance of “great power cooperation” between China and the United States.
Advancements in AI have stoked global alarm over the technology’s potential for disinformation and misuse, with deep fake images created out of thin air and people shown mouthing things they never said.
There was no immediate comment from China on Graphika’s report, which comes just weeks after Beijing adopted expansive rules to regulate deep fakes.
China enforced new rules last month that will require businesses offering deep fake services to obtain the real identities of their users. They also require deep fake content to be appropriately tagged to avoid “any confusion.”
The Chinese government has warned that deep fakes present a “danger to national security and social stability.”
Graphika’s report said the two Wolf News anchors were almost certainly created using technology provided by the London-based AI startup Synthesia.
The website of Synthesia, which did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment, advertises software for creating deep fake avatars “based on video footage of real actors.”
Graphika said it discovered the deep fakes while tracking pro-China disinformation operations known as “spamouflage”.
“Spamouflage is a pro-Chinese influence operation that predominantly amplifies low-quality political spam videos,” said Stubbs.
“Despite using some sophisticated technology, these latest videos are much the same. This shows the limitations of using deep fakes in influence operations — they are just one tool in an increasingly advanced toolbox.”