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  • Khushboo Pareek

China may try to subvert elections in India, US, Microsoft warns



Microsoft has issued a warning that China intends to disrupt upcoming elections in India, the United States, and South Korea using AI-generated content. The alert follows China's trial during Taiwan's presidential election, where AI was used to influence the outcome.


Microsoft's threat intelligence team has predicted that Chinese state-backed cyber groups, potentially aided by North Korea, will target multiple elections in 2024.


The company suggested that China will likely use AI-generated content on social media platforms to manipulate public opinion in their favour during these elections


Microsoft in a post on Thursday said, "China is using fake social media accounts to poll voters on what divides them most to sow division and possibly influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in its favor."

 

It added, "China has also increased its use of AI-generated content to further its goals around the world. North Korea has increased its cryptocurrency heists and supply chain attacks to fund and further its military goals and intelligence collection.  It has also begun to use AI to make its operations more effective and efficient."


Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last month to discuss AI's role in social causes.


In the upcoming months, at least 64 countries, including India, are set to hold national elections, representing nearly half of the global population.


"With major elections taking place around the world this year, particularly in India, South Korea and the United States, we assess that China will, at a minimum, create and amplify AI-generated content to benefit its interests," Microsoft said in its statement.


The tech giant highlighted China's prior use of AI-generated disinformation to influence Taiwan's election, marking the first instance of state-backed entities employing such tactics in a foreign election.


During the Taiwanese election, a Beijing-backed group called Storm 1376, or Spamouflage, actively disseminated AI-generated content, including fake audio endorsements and memes, to discredit candidates and shape voter opinions. Iran has also utilized AI-generated TV news anchors as a similar tactic.


"Storm-1376 has promoted a series of AI-generated memes of Taiwan's then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate William Lai, and other Taiwanese officials as well as Chinese dissidents around the world. These have included an increasing use of AI-generated TV news anchors that Storm-1376 has deployed since at least February 2023," Microsoft said.


Microsoft highlighted ongoing Chinese influence campaigns in the United States, where groups use social media platforms to pose divisive questions and gather information on crucial voting demographics.


AI's role in US election campaigns isn't new. In the lead-up to the 2024 New Hampshire Democratic primaries, an AI-generated phone call mimicked President Joe Biden's voice, urging voters not to participate in the polling. The call falsely suggested that voters should hold off their votes until the general election in November.


The message could have easily misled voters into thinking that President Biden endorsed this directive, potentially leading to their disenfranchisement. While there's no proof of Chinese involvement in this incident, it's one of several instances where AI poses a direct threat to democratic processes.


India's general election is scheduled to begin on April 19, with the results set to be declared on June 4. The electoral process will unfold across seven phases.

 

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