YouTube being flooded with pro-China propaganda by AI-driven influence operation

YouTube being flooded with pro-China propaganda by AI-driven influence operation

An investigation by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has uncovered a large network of YouTube channels that promote pro-Chinese and anti-US sentiment in the English-speaking world. The operation, known as “Shadow Play,” consists of at least 30 YouTube channels with approximately 730,000 subscribers and 4,500 videos, accumulating around 120 million views. The channels use generative AI to rapidly produce and publish content while taking advantage of YouTube’s algorithmic recommendation system. The ASPI report reveals that the channels gained audiences by cross-promoting each other’s content using AI algorithms, allowing state messaging to spread across borders with plausible deniability. The investigation suggests that the controller of the operation is likely Mandarin-speaking and may be a commercial entity operating under some degree of state direction. This discovery highlights the need for stronger legislation and disclosure requirements to address cross-border influence campaigns. The current legislation lacks provisions for geopolitical conflicts of interest and focuses more on commercial sponsorships. Possible measures to combat deceptive content include clear disclosures of affiliations with foreign governments and making affiliation and location data more visible on channels. As AI technology advances, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify deceptive content and discern hidden agendas or conflicts of interest. Viewers are advised to research the creators behind the content, assess the tone and goal of the content, check for credibility signals from established sources, and consume information from reliable sources across the political spectrum. The article emphasizes the importance of implementing ethical safeguards and oversight frameworks for content moderation and recommendation algorithms to prevent the unrestricted spread of AI propaganda, which could undermine truth, manipulate events, and destabilize societies. Without external oversight, social media platforms may act as misinformation amplifiers optimized for watch-time, potentially eroding social cohesion, disrupting elections, inciting violence, and undermining democratic institutions. It is crucial to establish external oversight to ensure that social media platforms serve the greater good rather than short-term profit.

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