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China Mobilizes AI in "A Fractured America" Propaganda Drive

Published March 29, 2024
1 months ago

China's state broadcaster, CGTN, has deployed artificial intelligence (AI) to amplify its propaganda efforts in a bid to depict the United States in decline. The animated series, titled "A Fractured America," utilizes AI-generated visuals and audio to critique the "American Dream," highlighting social and economic fissures within the US society. This cutting-edge application of AI signifies an evolution in Beijing’s international influence campaigns.

The animations feature stark interpretations of urban America, assembling a vivid picture of disparity and disillusionment. From incarceration rates to wealth inequality, no social woe is beyond the reach of these AI-generated propaganda pieces. These provocative segments mirror the narratives used by Chinese state media to contrast China’s rise with America's perceived pitfalls.

For China, the attraction to AI for such operations is multifaceted. AI offers a cost-effective, scalable approach to content creation. Gone are the days when such operations required the painstaking work of animators and voice actors. AI can produce comparable materials at a fraction of the time and cost.

This strategy aligns with China's long-standing efforts to guide global conversations. Historically known for their 'wumao' internet trolls, the Chinese government has advanced its tactics to encompass a broader array of digital platforms and now, AI-generated content.

The reach of such campaigns is not trivial. As cited by Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center, AI-generated content has drawn significant engagement from genuine social media users, spreading across traditional political and social divides. AI has subsequently been implicated in the widespread dissemination of divisive content, from astroturfing operations aiming to feign grassroots support, to malevolent deepfakes challenging the fabric of truth itself.

Taiwan, another focus of Chinese interference, has also experienced the impact of AI during their recent elections. Deepfake videos and AI-generated audio have surfaced to discredit public figures, presenting a challenge for governments and society to discern truth from technologically enhanced fiction.

As AI becomes more sophisticated, with platforms like OpenAI's Sora leading the way, discerning between real and AI-generated content will become increasingly complex. The implications for global democracy are profound, as misinformation becomes more compelling and potentially more persuasive in swaying public opinion.

China's utilization of AI in propaganda signals a transformative shift in the landscape of international influence. As the world approaches a record year of democratic elections, the question remains: how will nations, institutions, and citizens navigate and combat this emergent challenge?

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