Microsoft flags deceptive strategies and AI-generated disinformation from China that could potentially disrupt the upcoming US election

US President Joe Biden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has published a report highlighting how China is leveraging AI to disrupt elections across South Korea, India, and the US.
  • The tech giant details that China's threat to the electoral process "remains low" but warns it could get severe with time as its deceitful ploys become more sophisticated. 
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had previously indicated that there's enough power to protect the integrity of the US presidential election, alongside the company's plan to empower voters with authoritative news regarding the election via Bing.

With the prevalence of generative AI and chatbots, misinformation is becoming more widespread. Microsoft recently shared a new report highlighting how China is misappropriating the tech, spanning from AI-generated memes designed to fuel outrage over Japan's disposal of nuclear wastewater to spreading malicious rumors indicating that the US government is behind the tragic wildfire in Hawaii and Kentucky's train derailment.

According to the tech giant:

"As populations in India, South Korea and the United States head to the polls, we are likely to see Chinese cyber and influence actors, and to some extent North Korean cyber actors, work toward targeting these elections."

Further in the report, Microsoft indicated that it anticipates China will leverage AI-based ploys to interfere with high-profile elections this year. Several social media accounts believed to belong to Chinese users have been spotted spreading politically concocted AI-generated information. Moreover, the accounts would ask followers to interact with the posts by asking which presidential candidate they are supporting.  

Microsoft speculates that China intends to use its position and AI to brew more chaos, ultimately allowing it to benefit from the high-profile elections. While the tech giant indicates the issue isn't severe, it warns the situation is highly likely to change:

"While the impact of such content in swaying audiences remains low, China's increasing experimentation in augmenting memes, videos and audio will continue – and may prove effective down the line."

Microsoft's report complements the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence's threat assessment of China. Both reports mentioned Storm-1376, a Beijing-based group known as "Spamouflage" that is believed to be behind Taiwan's electoral process disruptions via AI-generated content.

What's Microsoft doing to prevent the issue from becoming widespread?

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino | Bing Image Creator)

Last year, Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing Chat) was spotted misleading voters and users with false information regarding the forthcoming US election. Researchers indicated that the issue was systemic, after establishing a pattern. The chatbot had also been spotted providing false information about the election process in Germany and Switzerland. 

But Microsoft has been putting elaborate measures and ramping up it efforts to prevent this situation from spiraling out of control. Earlier this year while in speaking in an interview, Microsoft CEO indicated there's 'enough technology' to protect the US presidential election from AI deepfakes and misinformation.

Microsoft had already indicated that it plans to empower voters with authoritative and factual election news on Bing ahead of the poll. Bing growth continues to stagnate despite Microsoft's hefty investment in AI, while Google dominates the search landscape.

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.