Venezuela Is Using Fake AI American Newscasters to Spread Disinformation

Venezuela Is Using Fake AI American Newscasters to Spread Disinformation


Noah is an AI avatar posing as a journalist who features in YouTube videos promoting Venezuela. Photo: House of News Español via YouTube.

Bizarre videos promoting Venezuela are being shared on state television, using apparently English-speaking American hosts.

The videos first appeared on a YouTube channel called Español News Houseone featuring a blond white man speaking American English in a clip titled “Venezuela and its Economy, Myth or Reality?”

But the alleged on-screen reporter is Noah, one of dozens of artificial intelligence avatars created by a company called Synthesia that for just $30 a month will say what the buyer wants. Similar videos produced recently using Synthesia software have been used to promote propaganda in Africa And Asia also in the last month.

Noah is hosting a seemingly western news broadcasts which aims “to find out if Venezuela is really as destroyed as the media has claimed for years”.

Venezuela under President Nicolás Maduro and his Socialist Party has become one of the most isolated countries in the world and has long experienced chronic hyperinflation and food shortages. Allegations of state-run drug trafficking abound, as does a climate of silence after years of repression of the country’s free press.

But according to Noah and House of News, this is all overkill.

The nearly two-minute long video – half of which is just cellphone video footage with someone speaking in Spanish about different pricing options for all-inclusive packages to Venezuela’s tourist hotspots for the carnival – has 270,000 views on YouTube, and is one of five weird videos posted on the channel in the past month. Another video with over 100,000 views hosted by a different American avatar details how Maduro’s political rival, Juan Guaido, allegedly spent $150 million. A third promotes Venezuela new world class baseball stadium.

What is unclear is whether the Maduro administration was involved in making the videos. “Venezuela’s propaganda ecosystem thrives on any type of content that could be useful in fueling the narratives of Nicolás Maduro’s government,” Adrián González, executive director of Venezuela-based nongovernmental organization Cazadores de Fake News ( Fake News). News Hunters) who first drew attention to the videos, told VICE World News.

After being posted on YouTube, the videos began to be shared on Twitter and Tik Tok, with minor pro-government figures touting them as positive press about Venezuela from foreign media. This became particularly problematic, González said, when the AI ​​created videos that later appeared on state television, with news anchors broadcasting the videos directly from the Tweets of their shows. This tactic puts AI-created news stories on state television while allowing the hosts to shirk responsibility for the content of the videos, as they come from social media.

“The theory is that it’s all part of an organized strategy,” González said. “I cannot directly attribute these videos to the government of Nicolás Maduro precisely because these types of secret accounts and secret influence operations are designed in such a way that there is no link allowing attribution. “

Although the videos are in English, they have Spanish titles and biographies on YouTube, as well as Spanish subtitles. The hosts speak with bad grammar and use strange words like “paradise” to describe the beaches of Venezuela.

“There are a lot of people outside of Venezuela who would say, well, I saw the video, but it has broken English and it doesn’t seem real. But Venezuelans don’t really notice that,” González said. “They are created for the Venezuelan public.”

The use of Synthesia’s technology has also recently been used support the military regime Burkina Faso’s interim president, Ibrahim Traoré, who took power in a coup in September.

In late January, videos began spreading via WhatsApp and Facebook groups in Africa featuring American-sounding people supporting the government.

“Hello to the African people and particularly to the people of Burkina Faso. My name is Alisha and I am a Pan-Africanist,” said one woman, mispronouncing the word “Africanist”.

“I call on the solidarity of the people of Burkina Faso and the people of Burkina Faso to effectively support the authorities of the transition,” said the AI ​​avatar. “Let us all remain mobilized by the people of Burkina Faso in this struggle. Fatherland or death. We will vanquish.

Synthesia said in February that the user who created the videos from Burkina Faso has been identified and banned for violating a policy that allows the dissemination of false information, disinformation or obscenity.

“As a company, we invested early in content moderation to ensure that our tens of thousands of customers benefit from a secure platform,” said Synthesia CEO Victor Riparbelli. told VICE World News at the beginning of February. “Cases like this show how difficult moderation is. The scripts in question do not use explicit language and require a deep contextual understanding of the subject. No system will ever be perfect, but to prevent similar situations from happening in the future, we will continue our work to improve the systems.

Synthesia did not confirm whether or not the videos about Venezuela violated their content moderation guidelines when contacted by VICE World News this week.

Synthesia was founded in 2017 and uses video footage to clone actors, who are paid and consent to the use of their image within the technology. The company recently told the motherboard that its top clients are using the technology to create real estate tours and HR training videos for businesses.

But Synthesia also seems to have quickly found another niche, sought after or not: controversial political figures and their supporters who want to spread misinformation.

Update: Shortly after posting, a Synthesia spokesperson told VICE World News that “the user in question has been tagged and banned from our service due to a violation of our Terms of Service. We are conducting an urgent review of our moderation process and will provide an update on the results in due course.”

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