Tuesday, September 12, 2023














New York Times - September 11, 2023

When wildfires swept across Maui last month with destructive fury, China’s increasingly resourceful information warriors pounced.

The disaster was not natural, they said in a flurry of false posts that spread across the internet, but was the result of a secret “weather weapon” being tested by the United States. To bolster the plausibility, the posts carried photographs that appeared to have been generated by artificial intelligence programs, making them among the first to use these new tools to bolster the aura of authenticity of a disinformation campaign.

For China — which largely stood on the sidelines of the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections while Russia ran hacking operations and disinformation campaigns — the effort to cast the wildfires as a deliberate act by American intelligence agencies and the military was a rapid change of tactics.

Until now, China’s influence campaigns have been focused on amplifying propaganda defending its policies on Taiwan and other subjects. The most recent effort, revealed by researchers from Microsoft and a range of other organizations, suggests that Beijing is making more direct attempts to sow discord in the United States.

The move also comes as the Biden administration and Congress are grappling with how to push back on China without tipping the two countries into open conflict, and with how to reduce the risk that A.I. is used to magnify disinformation.

The impact of the Chinese campaign — identified by researchers from Microsoft, Recorded Future, the RAND Corporation, NewsGuard and the University of Maryland — is difficult to measure, though early indications suggest that few social media users engaged with the most outlandish of the conspiracy theories….