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China to Utilize AI-Generated Content in Disruptive Election Tactics, Microsoft Report Reveals

A report released by Microsoft on Friday unveils China’s intentions to leverage artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content in attempts to disrupt upcoming Lok Sabha polls in India, as well as other elections worldwide, including those in the United States and South Korea.

According to Microsoft, China will, at the very least, fabricate and disseminate AI-generated content through social media platforms to advance its positions in these significant elections. While the likelihood of such content significantly impacting election outcomes remains low, the company asserts that China’s growing experimentation with augmenting memes, videos, and audio content is expected to persist and could potentially become more impactful in the future. These insights are detailed in a report titled ‘Same targets, new playbooks: East Asia threat actors employ unique methods’, published by the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC).

Microsoft noted that China previously attempted an AI-generated disinformation campaign during the Taiwan presidential election in January, marking the first instance of a state-backed entity utilizing AI-generated content to influence a foreign election. However, the scope of China’s targets could extend beyond Taiwan this year, as per Microsoft’s warning. The report highlights several noteworthy cyber and influence trends observed from China and North Korea since June 2023, indicating not only a reinforcement of existing targets but also efforts to employ more sophisticated influence tactics to achieve their objectives.

Microsoft outlined that Chinese cyber actors primarily focused on three target areas over the past seven months: one group extensively targeted entities across the South Pacific Islands, another continued cyberattacks against regional adversaries in the South China Sea region, and a third compromised the US defense industrial base. These actors have continued to refine AI-generated or AI-enhanced content as part of their influence campaigns, both amplifying existing AI-generated media and creating their own video, memes, and audio content to support strategic narratives.

Furthermore, China-based threat actors persistently targeted entities associated with China’s economic and military interests in the South China Sea region, while also compromising government and telecommunications entities within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to Microsoft’s findings. A specific Chinese cyber actor named Flax Typhoon targeted entities related to US-Philippines military exercises and expanded its focus to include entities in the Philippines, Hong Kong, India, and the United States during the fall and winter of 2023, the report stated.

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