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Source: Le Big Data as of 08-07-2020

A vast network of fake journalists was created through AI as part of a propaganda operation for some Gulf countries. It was an investigation by the Daily Beast that exposed the deception.

In the age of artificial intelligence, propaganda has just reached a new and particularly disturbing milestone. According to a survey conducted by The Daily Beast, AI was used to create a complete network of fake journalists, analysts and political consultants.

The goal? Make articles for some Gulf countries. At least 19 fake identities were used to sign articles published on dozens of conservative websites.

Portraits of these fictional individuals, generated by AI, were integrated at the end of articles to convince the reader that they are real people. These portraits appear to have been created using tools similar to the “This Person Does Not Exist” website.

Such tools allow you to create fake portraits that are totally unique, which cannot be associated with portraits of existing people. This makes it difficult to see that they are fictitious people, even when searching by image on the web.

However, AI is still in its infancy and these fake portraits are far from perfect. If you look at them carefully, you can notice, for example, that the teeth may seem strange, that some features are asymmetrical, or that some parts are blurred. Similarly, the background is always the same.

This is one of the elements that allowed the Daily Beast to discover the pot of roses. We also note that these false identities have several attributes in common, suggesting that they were all created as part of a single coordinated propaganda campaign.

Thus, the people identified by the Daily Beast were all contributors on two related websites: The Arab Eye and Persia Now. All had Twitter accounts created in March or April 2020.

They presented themselves as political consultants or freelance journalists based in European capitals. Their LinkedIn accounts showed deceitful career or academic backgrounds and links to each other’s work.

Artificial intelligence: a new propaganda weapon in the era of 2.0?

It is difficult to determine who created this network, but the positions of these fake journalists reflect an explicit political orientation. The articles call for tougher sanctions against Iran, praise some Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, and criticize Qatar for its alleged support for terrorism.

It can therefore be assumed that this propaganda campaign originated in the United Arab Emirates. The publications were then published internationally on American websites such as the Washington Examiner and the American Thinker, in the Middle East on the Jerusalem Post and Al Arabiya, or in Hong Kong in the South China Morning Post.

The scope of this campaign therefore seems global. Following the publication of the Daily Beast investigation, Twitter closed 15 accounts belonging to fake journalists.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, it is feared that such manipulation operations will multiply over time. As AI becomes more realistic, it will become more and more difficult to distinguish false identities…

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