At a glance.
- AI's potential to tailor disinformation to individuals.
- Dealing with dissent, both hard- and anti-war.
- Pushing narratives in weather reports.
- Cyberattacks support influence operations.
- Staging propaganda in Minecraft.
The AI will take you up to a high place and show you all the kingdoms of the earth, and their power...
WIRED interview experts who think that, while AI's ability to spread disinformation at scale is now generally appreciated, its potential to produce content tailored to the persuasion of specific groups and even individuals is for less well understood. Hany Farid, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, describes how content targeted to individuals might be generated. “You could say something like, ‘Here’s a bunch of tweets from this user. Please write me something that will be engaging to them.’ That’ll get automated. I think that’s probably coming,” he told WIRED. And recommendation algorithms will do a great deal to amplify such content in social media.
(Of course, it will all be VR, not IRL as it was in Matthew 4:8-9.)
Labeling AI-generated content.
Instagram is said to be flagging content generated by artificial intelligence.
“We view this move towards a more transparent media landscape as extremely positive. While AI has revolutionizing potential, the ease of creation and dissemination of fake images and videos can deceive and manipulate public opinion quickly and on a large scale – they have the potential to completely erode trust in the news cycle and what the public perceives as true," Eduardo Azanza, CEO of Veridas, wrote in emailed comments. "We’ve already seen a dramatic increase in abuses of deep fake images and videos circulating online. As artificial intelligence advances, it will become more and more challenging to distinguish between authentic and artificially generated media. Without some sort of label, the public is left to rely on their personal intuition alone and the spread of misinformation becomes easier. Adding labels to AI-generated content can allow for transparency and informed consumption of media, avoiding the potential of an anarchic media landscape."
The approach suggests, he thinks, ways in which companies can make a positive contribution to responsible use of AI. "If we want to integrate AI successfully into our daily lives," Azanza added. "it is important for large, impactful companies to lead the charge in aligning with standards and regulations that enforce accountability and responsibility. That way, we can build public trust in the technology and use its full potential to contribute to the common good.”
Dealing with dissent, both hard- and anti-war.
The Institute for the Study of War wrote, over the weekend, that the sometimes fractious Russian mil-bloggers--hard-war men, but often critical of the way their Ministry of Defense has been running the fight--"appear to be coalescing around the Kremlin’s narrative effort to portray the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure, increasingly overstating Ukrainian losses and writing less about Russia's losses and challenges than they had been." There's reason to believe they've been encouraged to do so by the arrest of Igor Girkin, who had been among the most prominent and intemperately critical of the hard-war malcontents. At a July 29th press conference President Putin addressed suppression of dissent. He explained in response to a journalist who asked whether it was "normal for people to be arrested for things they have written or said," that, since Russia "is in an armed conflict with a neighbor," stands to reason that "there must be a certain attitude toward people who are causing harm inside the country."
Cloudy, with a chance of cruise missiles and thermobaric blasts. And also famine.
Evgeny Tishkovets, a weatherman on Russian state television, has been giving an increasingly bellicose spin to his forecasts. In his segment on Sergey Mardan's chat show, he's been displaying a map of the front (the war's front, not a weather front) with arrows depicting not the movement of air masses but rather tactical avenues of approach. He did predict cloud cover, winds, and temperatures, but with a view to assessing their effect on operations. "Dry weather conditions," he said, with manifest satisfaction, will "increase the effectiveness of incendiary and thermobaric ammunition," against vehicles, buildings, and personnel. The winds and sea conditions in the Black Sea will, he added, be just right for the use of submarine- and surface-ship-launched cruise and ballistic missiles against Ukrainian targets, and the weather also favors bombing and cruise missile strikes from strategic aviation.
This is all nonsense, of course--none of these systems are highly sensitive to anything but the most extreme weather, and indirect fire isn't the kind of thing that can be rained out like a ballgame--but the militarization of the weather report is striking. Mr. Tishkovets is now styled as "Lieutenant Colonel Tishkovets," his set is labeled "Stavka" (that is, general headquarters) and he's taken to wearing a military-style blouse. His sign off is "The enemy will be destroyed!"
Mr. Mardan, the host, is cheering strikes against Ukrainian cities and applauding the rise in grain prices (and the attendant risk of famine). Now, when Russia speaks, he suggests, people in Algiers and elsewhere will have to listen. "Fear us" continues to be the overarching theme of Russian influence operations directed abroad. For domestic consumption that message is, "See how the foreigners fear us."
Cyberattacks support influence operations.
Anonymous Sudan (which, remember, is neither Anonymous nor Sudanese, but rather a front for Russian intelligence services) has claimed responsibility for a cyberattack against Kenya's eCitizen portal. The East African reports that Kenya's ICT minister acknowledged an attack on the system, a place where Kenyans access government services online, but said that no data had been lost. The government was working to secure eCitizen and restore it to full operation.
TechCabal has an account of the extent of the disruptions, which it characterizes as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The outlet also quotes the rationale Anonymous Sudan offered for the campaign: Kenya has “released statements doubting the sovereignty of [the Sudanese] government.” Here's a more likely explanation: Kenya's President William Ruto declined to attend the Russo-African summit, and gave as his reason the impropriety of appearing to support one side in Russia's war. Thus the message Anonymous Sudan is sending probably, as usual, has nothing to do with Sudan. That message is framed in Russia, and it's a familiar one: fear us, foreigners.
Staging propaganda in Minecraft.
Russian influence operators have taken to Minecraft and other online games to spread memes favorable to its framing of the war against Ukraine, the New York Times reports. It's puerile stuff--pushing the "Z" emblem of the invasion, portraying the Wagnerites and the Russian Army as competent and fearsome, and so on--but then gamers are a predictably puerile audience. They have attracted high-level attention in Russia, with President Putin earlier this month saying that games stand at the "intersection of art and education," then going on to outline what he takes to be their proper social function. “A game should help a person develop," Mr. Putin said, "help him find himself, should help educate a person both within the framework of universal human values and within the framework of patriotism,”