Chinese state-directed influence and disinformation campaigns are deceiving U.S. voters and targeting political candidates with enhanced sophistication on multiple social media platforms, Microsoft said in a statement Threat analysis report Thursday.
According to the report, which focuses on the rise of “digital threats from East Asia,” “covert influence operations linked to the Chinese Communist Party have now begun to more successfully target audiences on social media, and on a larger scale than before observed”.
The Microsoft report also warned that some Chinese influence campaigns are now using generative artificial intelligence to create visual content that has “already generated higher levels of engagement with authentic” users, a trend that began around March, according to the company started.
Chinese influence campaigns have historically had difficulty gaining traction with their intended targets, which in this case are U.S. voters and residents. But since the 2022 midterm elections, these efforts have become more effective, Microsoft warned.
Policy makers And industry experts have expressed concern about foreign influence campaigns on social media platforms, particularly on X, formerly known as Twitter. In December, three Democratic House members asked X Owner Elon Musk to inform about manipulation campaigns on the platform.
Microsoft has found content from Chinese influence campaigns on several apps, including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, LinkedIn and linked it to Chinese state actors.
Microsoft’s report included screenshots of two different X posts from April that were identified as CCP-related disinformation. Both were about the Black Lives Matter movement and had the same graphics. The first came from an automated account linked to the CCP. The second, Microsoft said, was uploaded seven hours later by an account posing as a conservative US voter.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The operations identified by Microsoft had similarities to those allegedly carried out by an elite group within China’s national security apparatus, the company said. That organization, the 912 Special Working Group, was identified by the Justice Department in April as the perpetrator of a campaign of harassment against Chinese nationals across the United States. The government has charged 44 defendants, including 34 officials from China’s Ministry of Public Security.