China uses AI to accuse US of starting Maui wildfires

Occurred: August 2023

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Pro-China operatives have been spreading disinformation about an experimental US military weapon that reputedly caused the August 2023 Maui wildfires, according to a report by NewsGuard.

Starting mid-August 2023, the campaign uses apparently AI-generated photographs and text to allege the British intelligence service MI6 had revealed that the US military used a 'weather weapon' to start the wildfires. NewsGuard said it traced the conspiracy theory to a post on Chinese platform in early August.

Researchers said the campaign comprised 85 social media accounts and blogs originating from China, and targeted users in multiple countries and 16 languages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a dozen other platforms. Meta confirmed to Gizmodo the accounts were part of China's deepfake 'Spamouflage' disinformation operation.

The impact of the Chinese campaign proved difficult to measure, but it appears unlikely to have gained much traction given the highly implausible nature of the claim. 


Operator: Government of China
Developer: Government of China 

Country: USA

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Scare/confuse/destabilise 

Technology: Deepfake - image, video, audio; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Mis/disinformation

Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: September 2023