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China may use AI-generated content to influence polls, warns Microsoft

PTC Web Desk: Microsoft has issued a warning that China may utilise artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content to influence 2024 Lok Sabha elections in India, following a trial run observed during the Taiwan presidential poll. According to an analysis by Microsoft Threat Intelligence, Chinese state-backed cyber groups, supported by North Korea, are likely to target the elections not only in India, but also in the United States and South Korea.

The report suggests that China intends to create and amplify AI-generated content to serve its interests. While the immediate impact of such content on the 2024 Lok Sabha election results is deemed low, China’s increasing experimentation with memes, videos and audio augmentation is expected to persist and potentially become more effective over time.

One of the identified Chinese cyber actors, Flax Typhoon, known for frequent attacks on the telecommunications sector, targeted various regions, including India, the Philippines, Hong Kong and the United States in late 2023. Besides, in February, a Chinese state-linked hacker group claimed responsibility for targeting key offices of the Indian government, such as the “PMO” (likely the Prime Minister’s Office) and prominent businesses such as Reliance and Air India.

An investigation by The Washington Post revealed that these hackers breached 95.2 gigabytes of immigration data from the Indian government, subsequently posting the leaked files on GitHub.

The report also highlighted the activities of another Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-linked actor named Storm-1376, which disseminated videos featuring AI-generated anchors in Mandarin and English. These videos falsely alleged the involvement of the United States and India in the unrest in Myanmar. Myanmar has been embroiled in civil conflict since a military coup in February 2021, with widespread allegations of suppression of dissent and detention of political figures, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates recently met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the utilisation of artificial intelligence and the threat posed by deepfake content generated through AI tools. PM Modi expressed concerns about the potential misuse of deepfake technology to spread misinformation.

The report also sheds light on China’s attempted disinformation campaign during the Taiwan presidential election, utilising AI-generated content. Furthermore, there has been an observed increase in the use of AI-generated TV news anchors. For instance, a fabricated video surfaced on YouTube featuring election candidate Terry Gou, who had withdrawn from the race, purportedly endorsing another candidate.

With the elections looming in the United States later this year, Chinese groups are reportedly leveraging social media platforms to pose divisive questions to voters and gather intelligence on key demographics. The report underscores North Korea’s intensified cryptocurrency heists and supply chain attacks to fund military objectives and intelligence activities, alongside its adoption of AI to enhance operational efficiency.
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(With inputs from agencies)

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