Chatbot passed off a Ukrainian woman as a Russian woman and used her photo to advertise the Russian Federation in China - ForumDaily
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Chatbot passed off a Ukrainian woman as a Russian woman and used her photo to advertise the Russian Federation in China

Hackers took a video of a Ukrainian woman from YouTube and, using AI, turned it into promotional videos to promote Russia in China, reports with the BBC.

Top view of female vlogger editing video on laptop. Young woman working on computer with coffee and cameras on table.


Olga Loek has seen her face in various videos on Chinese social networks. They were made using an easy-to-use generative artificial intelligence tool available on the Internet. Read about what AI can do to humanity when it becomes superintelligence. material.
“I could see my face and hear my voice. But it was all very scary because I saw myself saying things that I had never said,” said the 21-year-old Ukrainian woman who studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Find out what to expect from artificial intelligence in 2024 in our Articles.

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“I don’t want anyone to think that I ever said these terrible things. Using a Ukrainian girl as a person promoting Russia is madness,” she said.

Accounts featuring her featured dozens of different names, such as Sophia, Natasha, April and Stacey. These “girls” spoke Chinese, which Olga had never studied. Apparently, they were from Russia and were talking about Chinese-Russian friendship or advertising Russian products.

“I saw that 90% of the videos were about China and Russia, Chinese-Russian friendship, about being strong allies. There was also food advertising,” the Ukrainian commented.

One of the largest accounts was Natasha imported food, which has more than 300 subscribers. “Natasha” at the beginning of the videos said something like: “Russia is the best country. It's sad that other countries turn their backs on Russia, but Russian women want to come to China,” before starting to promote products like Russian candy.

This outraged Olga, whose family is still in Ukraine.

But more broadly, the case has drawn attention to the dangers of a technology that is evolving so quickly that regulating it and protecting people has become a real challenge.

From YouTube to Xiaohongshu

Olga's Mandarin-speaking AI counterparts began appearing in 2023, shortly after she started a YouTube channel that is not updated very regularly.

About a month later, the Ukrainian woman began receiving messages from people who claimed to have seen her speaking Chinese on Chinese social networks.

Intrigued, Olga began searching for herself and found her AI-like images on Xiaohongshu, a platform similar to Instagram, as well as BiliBili, a video site similar to YouTube.

“There were a lot of accounts. Some had attributes such as Russian flags in their bios,” said the Ukrainian woman, who has so far found about 35 accounts using her image.

After her fiancé tweeted about the accounts, HeyGen, the firm that developed the tool used to create AI likenesses, responded.

Its experts showed that more than 4900 videos were created using Olga’s face. They said they blocked further use of the Ukrainian woman's image.

A company spokesperson said their system was hacked to create what they called "unauthorized content." He assured that the company has immediately updated its security and verification protocols to prevent further abuse of its platform.

But what happened to Olga is "very common in China," says Angela Zhang of the University of Hong Kong.

According to her, the country “has developed an extensive shadow economy, specializing in counterfeiting, misappropriation of personal data and the production of deepfakes.”

This is despite the fact that China is one of the first countries to try to regulate AI and what it can be used for. It even amended its civil code to protect likeness rights from digital fabrication.

Statistics released by the Department of Public Safety in 2023 show that authorities arrested 515 people for AI-assisted “face-spoofing” activities. Chinese courts have even heard cases in this area.

How did so many videos of Olga end up on the internet?

One reason could be that these videos promoted the idea of ​​friendship between China and Russia.
Beijing and Moscow have grown significantly closer in recent years. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin said friendship between the two countries “has no boundaries.”

Chinese state media repeat the Russian narrative justifying the invasion of Ukraine, and social media censors discussion of the war.

“It’s unclear whether these accounts were coordinated for a collective purpose, but promoting a message that matches government propaganda certainly benefits them,” said Emmy Hein, a law and technology researcher at the University of Bologna and the University of Leuven. “Even if these accounts are not explicitly associated with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), promoting a consistent message can reduce the likelihood of their posts being removed.”

That is, ordinary people like Olga remain vulnerable and risk violating Chinese law, experts warn.

Kayla Blomquist, a technology and geopolitics researcher at the University of Oxford, warns that "there is a risk of people being blamed for manufactured, politically sensitive content." They may be subject to "swift penalties imposed without due process of law."

In China, she said, “the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the government remain extremely weak.”

Hein explains that “the fundamental goal of Chinese regulation of artificial intelligence is to balance maintaining social stability with promoting innovation and economic development.”

“Although current rules appear strict, there is evidence of selective enforcement, especially generative AI licensing rules. Artificial intelligence can be aimed at creating a more innovation-friendly environment, with the tacit understanding that the law provides the basis for suppression if necessary,” she noted.

"Not the last victim"

The consequences of Olga's case extend far beyond China. It demonstrates the complexity of trying to regulate an industry that seems to be growing at breakneck speed. Regulators haven't kept up, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying.

In March, the European Parliament approved the Artificial Intelligence Act. It is the world's first comprehensive framework for limiting technology risks. And last October, US President Joe Biden announced an executive order requiring AI developers to share data with the government.

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“Regulation at the national and international levels is moving slowly compared to the rapid development of AI. We need a clearer understanding and stronger consensus on the most dangerous threats and how to mitigate them,” Blomqvist emphasized.

“However, divisions within and between countries are preventing real action. The US and China are key players, but achieving consensus and coordinating the necessary joint actions will be challenging,” she added.

Meanwhile, on an individual level, there seems to be little people can do other than not post anything online.

“The only thing to do is not give them any materials to work with. Don't upload your photos, videos or audio to public social networks,” advises Hein.

Olga is “100% sure” that she is not the last victim of generative AI. But the Ukrainian woman is determined not to let this chaos drive her off the Internet.

She shared her personal experience on her YouTube channel and says some Chinese online users helped her. They left comments under the fake videos indicating that they were not real.

According to Olga, many of these videos have now been deleted.

“I wanted to share my story and make sure that people understand: not everything you see on the Internet is real,” the Ukrainian explained. “I love sharing my ideas with the world, and none of these scammers can stop me from doing that.”

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