Pro-China deepfake 'spamouflage' campaign

Occurred: February 2023

Can you improve this page?
Share your insights with us

Videos of fake TV anchors promoting China and sowing disquiet about the USA have been distributed by pro-China bot accounts on Facebook and Twitter. The anchors purport to work for 'Wolf News' and are the first known instance of 'deepfake'-generated videos being used as part of a state-aligned information - or disinformation - campaign. 

The two fake anchors appear to have been created using technology created and owned by Synthesia, a London-based AI video creation platform. The software costs as little as USD 30 a month and produces videos in minutes in a process described by Synthesia 'as easy as writing an email.'

The discovery was made (pdf) by Graphika, which had been tracking a Chinese covert influence operation called Spamouflage for several years. Synthesia later suspended the accounts of the people who had created the fake anchors on the basis that they had violated its terms of service

The impact of the campaign remains unclear, though it appears the videos were only viewed several hundred times each before they were discovered to be fake. It seem probable that it has inspired others, and the same technology since been used in influence campaigns in Burkino Faso and elsewhere.

Operator: Government of China
Developer: Government of China

Country: USA; China; Burkino Faso

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Promote Chinese interests

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

Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2023