Facebook removes China’s fake AI-enhanced accounts
THEY had real names and convincing faces – but the dozens of Facebook accounts spouting pro-Beijing views for months were not human beings.
The web of fake accounts removed by the social network this week were completely bogus – part of a Chinese propaganda effort that used state of the art
AI-generated faces to spread lies and misinformation around the world.
Following an inquiry, Facebook said it had removed 155 fake accounts, nine groups and six Instagram accounts that violated its policy against foreign or government interference.
The clusters had originated mainly in China, and had focused on south-east Asia and the US. They used virtual private networks to conceal their identity – and their location.
The fake accounts posted on issues such as Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea, as well as criticising an independent news organisation in the Philippines. In the US, the accounts had pushed messages both for and against US president Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Chinese officials have denied claims they are seeking to influence the forthcoming presidential election.
The report was released together with a study from analytics firm Graphika, which said it had been given a list of assets by Facebook for an independent assessment.
It said the Chinese network of fake accounts had used profile pictures generated through AI. The technique, known as generative adversarial networks, is a way of “sidestepping the need to clothe a fake account in a stolen profile picture”, Graphika said. This means those attempting to find fake accounts cannot use reverse image searches to find them.
“It remains to be seen whether even more threat actors will turn to GAN generation as a source of profile pictures,” Graphika said.
Facebook said it had also discovered a second network, and took down 57 Facebook accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts, which it said were focused around the Philippines. An investigation suggested the network had links to the Philippine military and Philippine police, Facebook said.
The Chinese accounts had pushed messages both for and against US president Donald Trump, and Joe Biden