China, known for its technological advancements is evolving into an era marked by an escalated use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in state-controlled propaganda. This adaptation is an example of how China uses technology to control narratives and influence public opinion.
The use of AI-driven news anchors
State-run news media outlet, Xinhua, has introduced AI-driven news anchors. They are programmed to mimic human gestures, voices, and facial expressions. The AI anchors are available 24/7, broadcasting non-stop news and updates. This innovation has redefined the realm of news-reading in China.
The AI-driven anchors complement their human counterparts but aim to surpass them in efficiency and work duration. Manufactured by Sogou, China’s second-largest search engine, the digital anchors are programmed to be efficient, reliable, and untiring.
These digital newsreaders are designed with realistic hair and skin, and they blink, nod, frown or smile just like real anchors. Behind this hyperrealistic facade, however, is the government's intention to control public opinion, and this manipulation is deeply embedded in the programming of these AI newsreaders.
AI Propaganda Tools: Deepfakes and Facial Reenactment
China is reportedly advancing in producing 'deepfakes' - seemingly realistic videos created with AI. This technology can be exploited by the government to spread misinformation, furthering its propaganda initiatives.
China has also developed AI facial reenactment, a technology that produces realistic facial movements in videos. Created by ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, this technology was introduced in the Fotoable photo editing app. However, its potential for misuse in spreading propaganda is concerning.
Beyond the dissemination of misinformation, AI tools such as deepfakes could influence Chinese public opinion on a grand scale. These sophisticated propaganda tools give China's government a new way to shape public sentiment and effectively manipulate the discourse.
Si Weijiang, a prominent Chinese lawyer, has expressed concerns about these advanced technologies. He warns that their potential abuse presents terrifying prospects for public opinion manipulation, and can lead to disastrous impacts.
China's Notorious 50-cent Army
The Chinese government employs a group infamously known as the '50-cent army'. It comprises people who get paid for posting pro-government comments on social media. This army works tirelessly to guide public opinion and foster the government's narrative on social media.
The '50-cent army' illustrates that the Chinese government is not new at orchestrating public opinion. But with AI, the possibilities of doing so are diversified and exaggerated. With AI tools, the government can now effectively micro-manage the narrative and public discourse even more wisely.
Control of Public Opinion
By controlling popular platforms, the Chinese government ensures the primary narrative remains in its favor. By staking claim in the AI space, the government gains complete control over what it portrays to its citizens, and consequently, the world.
The Chinese government is not simply adopting emerging technologies; it is also defining how they are used and perceived by its citizens. Through these AI-driven strategies, the government effectively influences opinion dynamics, restricts alternative narratives or seeds of opposition, thereby increasing government's control over public sentiment.
The Way Forward
China’s adoption and adaptation of AI in manipulating public opinion signals a major shift in propaganda techniques. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and widespread, it will significantly shape and influence information dissemination and public discourse.
This propagandistic use of AI, though unsettling, holds a mirror to the future. It emphasizes the need for tighter AI regulation, ethical AI practices, and a reflective conversation on the use and abuse of AI in the modern world.
Therefore, countries and international bodies globally need to develop comprehensive frameworks and ethical standards for AI usage. This is crucial to prevent and limit the misuse of AI in the future. In essence, the world needs to be prepared to confront and counter the emerging AI-propaganda threat.