AI cat and mouse robot censorship war

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Now it's getting interesting:

"China’s internet police losing man-versus-machine duel on social media"

Stephen Chen, SCMP (11/14/21)

    Hordes of bot accounts using clever dodging tactics are causing burnout among human censors, police investigative paper finds
    Authorities may respond by raising a counter-army of automated accounts or even an AI-driven public opinion leader

Let us see how this war is proceeding:

Automated social media accounts engaging in political discussions are stretching China’s internet police to the limit, a new study has found.

These social media bots are difficult to identify because they use artificial intelligence technology to mimic human language and online behaviour. Often working in groups, they are able to generate and spread a huge amount of information within a short time.

And these accounts are overpowering state censors, because “humans get tired easily, [and] cannot endure a sustained fight,” according to Shao Lei, associate professor of digital investigation with the Sichuan Police College.

[S]tarting early last year, China’s internet police began to detect an unusual increase in posts with negative views on the government on the country’s largest social media platforms, WeChat and Weibo.

These posts efficiently dodged machine censors with various new tactics, such as replacing sensitive words with verbal or graphic symbols popular among young users. Investigations traced these posts to a large number of accounts controlled by robots, the paper revealed.

Most of these social bots were registered with a business ID to get through the official vetting process.

For instance, hundreds of social media accounts could be created using the address of a small grocery store.

In April, police launched an investigation on an unprecedented scale to identify misused business IDs in Yiwu, a city in Zhejiang province which is the largest small business centre in eastern China. The campaign caused a disruption in commercial activities that rippled through the global supply chain.

Some texts are written by humans, and some by robots using natural language algorithms. On the surface, there may seem to be nothing illegal.

And many of these accounts are active in subcultural interest groups such as animation, games, online songs and radio. They target young Chinese users, and deploy symbols or jargon that only insiders can understand

The internet police force is therefore not only having to battle the generational divide but also culture gaps.

[VHM:  highlighting added]

This is exciting.  Even when the government finds the source of the objectionable texts, because they have been generated by AI bots, it may be hard to pin culpability on any human.  And, even when the IP address of the offending computer whence the objectionable texts originated is identified, it is still hard for the authorities to shut down the real motivating mind behind them, since it readily shifts from one device to another, capturing them as surrogates.

I can't wait for the next act.  I think I know who's going to win in the end.


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  1. AntC said,

    November 14, 2021 @ 8:59 pm

    I can't wait for the next act.

    What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    The 'next act' will be that CCP will create its own horde of "Automated social media accounts engaging in political discussions", with the advantage they won't have to keep faking 'business ID's for them to hide under. They'll be "able to generate and spread a huge amount of information within a short time." — that is, mis-information supporting the party line.

    The 'young Chinese users' will get snowed, to the point they'll be unable to distinguish the sub-culture bots from the counter-culture from the CCP-promoted culture. It's a race to the bottom.

  2. John Swindle said,

    November 15, 2021 @ 10:51 pm

    Bots like to talk politics. Are they a better weapon in places with internet censorship than in those without it? Can’t they swamp political discussion either way?

  3. david said,

    November 16, 2021 @ 8:31 am

    Bots also “like” crime.

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