Microsoft says China has been targetting US voters with AI-generated images to manipulate public's opinion

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Microsoft has issued a stark warning about the increasing sophistication, scope, and scale of digital threats of AI-generated images originating from East Asia, with a particular focus on China and North Korea ahead of the 2024 election.

The report, titled Sophistication, scope, and scale: Digital threats from East Asia increase in breadth and effectiveness, highlights that hacking groups paid for by the government have been using the technology to manipulate public opinion and fuel racial, economic, and ideological tensions, not too long after releasing its investigation on Storm-0558 threat actor.

“This technology produces more eye-catching content than the awkward digital drawings and stock photo collages used in previous campaigns. We can expect China to continue to hone this technology over time, though it remains to be seen how and when it will deploy it at scale,” says Clint Watts, Microsoft Threat Analysis Center’s General Manager.

One of the most notable findings of the report is that China employs more than 230 state media employees and affiliates who masquerade as independent social media “influencers” across all major Western social media platforms — who have been recruited, trained, promoted, & funded by Chinese outfits.

The most troubling part is that it was seen by at least 103 million people on different platforms and in multiple languages.

“Several of North Korea’s threat actors have targeted the maritime and shipbuilding sectors, suggesting this as a high-priority area for the North Korean government,” Microsoft mentions.

“Additionally, multiple North Korean threat actors have recently targeted the Russian government and defense industry – likely for intelligence collection – while simultaneously providing material support for Russia in its war on Ukraine,” it adds.