Microsoft accuses China of exploiting AI to foster discord in the US

Tech giant Microsoft sounds the alarm about China's use of AI-generated content and “sockpuppets” on social media to influence US elections.

Redmond, Washington | By Michael Wandati | According to the recent report from Microsoft‘s threat center, China is intensifying its utilization of AI-generated content and fabricated social media profiles to stoke discord within the United States and other nations.

Clint Watts, the General Manager of Microsoft’s threat analysis center, highlighted that Beijing has significantly heightened its focus and sophistication in conducting influence operations.

In a report released on Thursday 4, April 2024, Watts stated, “China is using fake social media accounts to poll voters on what divides them most to sow division and possibly influence the outcome of the US presidential election in its favor.” 

Furthermore, the report notes that China has expanded its deployment of AI-generated content to advance its objectives globally, including within the US.

The report further reveals that Chinese influence operations have been opportunistic, seizing upon events like the recent train derailment in Kentucky and wildfires in Maui to foster distrust towards the US government.

According to Watts, the polling on contentious domestic issues within the US “indicates a deliberate effort to understand better which US voter demographic supports what issue or position and which topics are the most divisive, ahead of the main phase of the US presidential election.” 

However, the report ultimately concludes that there is scant evidence indicating that these influence operations have been effective in significantly altering public opinion thus far.

Last year, the threat center disclosed that social media accounts purportedly linked to the Chinese government had engaged in impersonation tactics on social media platforms to sway midterm elections in 2022.

“This activity has continued and these accounts nearly exclusively post about divisive US domestic issues such as global warming, US border policies, drug use, immigration, and racial tensions,” Watts wrote.

“They use original videos, memes, and infographics as well as recycled content from other high-profile political accounts,” he added.

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Watts further noted that Microsoft observed a significant increase in the utilization of AI-generated content in China-associated online influence campaigns targeting the presidential election in Taiwan, particularly in January.

“With major elections taking place around the world this year, particularly in India, South Korea and the United States, we assess that China will, at a minimum, create and amplify AI-generated content to benefit its interests,” Watts wrote.

According to Microsoft’s report, North Korea has recently started employing AI to enhance its capabilities in stealing cryptocurrency, launching attacks on supply chains, and gathering military intelligence with greater efficiency.