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Chinese propaganda network on Facebook used AI-generated faces

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Facebook removed two networks of fake accounts spreading government propaganda on the platform Tuesday, one originating in China and one in the Philippines.

In its latest report on this kind of coordinated campaign, the company says it took down 155 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, 9 groups and 7 Instagram accounts connected to the Chinese activity and 57 accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts for the activity in the Philippines. Both operations broke Facebook’s rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.”

The company released the report Thursday in coordination with Graphika, a social analytics company that specialized in disinformation. Graphika regularly analyzes this kind of activity in coordination with Facebook and its reports dive into more depth about techniques.

In a sign of the times, Graphika found that the Chinese network of fake accounts employed faces created through an AI technique known as GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). Those fake faces are employed to elude detection, but because their visual signature often ends up with subtle quirks and anomalies, GANs can sometimes be easily detected. “This form of AI is readily available online, and its use (or abuse) by covert operations has exploded in the last year,” according to Graphika’s report, which identified a dozen GAN-generated images from the Chinese information operation.

“A year ago, this was a novelty,” Graphika’s Ben Nimmo wrote on Twitter. “Now it feels like every operation we analyse tries this at least once.”

GANs examples

GANs examples via Graphika

The Chinese campaign, which Facebook traced to China’s Fujian province, included a “small volume” of activity directed at the U.S. election. Those efforts, which began in April 2019 with a Facebook group called Go for Pete Buttigieg 2020, did not gain much traction. That account never added members beyond two accounts affiliated with the propaganda network. In 2020, the network of fake accounts created three U.S.-focused groups, one pro-Trump, one pro-Biden-Harris and one called “Quack Quack” that made anti-Trump posts. The Biden-Harris group found the most success, attracting 1,400 members.

Most of the newly identified Chinese propaganda pushed China’s interests in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Unlike some campaigns, the people involved in this activity took steps to hide their identities using VPNs and other tactics. According to Graphika, the network of fake accounts “showed a particular interest in maritime security, especially in the South China Sea.” This is the second set of Facebook takedowns for Chinese information operations, following a previous report in August 2019.

“In Southeast Asia where this network focused most of its activity, they posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events including China’s interests in the South China Sea; Hong Kong; content supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte and Sarah Duterte’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential election; criticism of Rappler, an independent news organization in the Philippines; issues relevant to the overseas Filipino workers; and praise and some criticism of China,” Facebook wrote in a blog post on the takedowns.

The other propaganda campaign originated in the Philippines, and an investigation identified ties to country’s national military and police. Two pages in the campaign boasted more than 40,000 followers but others had none or few. Those accounts shared content in Filipino and English about “local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, [a] pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” according to Facebook.

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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