Weaponizing YouTube Videos

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There has been much written about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Our science fiction is full of stories about thinking machines that become sentient enough to recognize human foibles and exploit them to the fullest, and in some cases using lethal force to wipe us out. We’re still quite a bit away from Terminator and The Matrix, but we do live in a world where robots are building other robots, walking around on two or four legs, flying in formation, even scanning the internet and developing hateful, racist attitudes. People seem to be in such a hurry to develop these things because they can, but are not putting much thought into whether or not they should.

The latest bit of A.I. controversy I’ve seen comes from this on-going cyber war we’re engaged in with Russia (allegedly). An engineer using the Twitter handle @smartereveryday posted an interesting thread about a discovery he made on YouTube. It’s a long thread, but I encourage you to read it. What he seems to suggest is that someone has programed bots to CREATE Youtube videos! In this case, they are pro-Trump videos featuring a story about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

The theory is that a bot combs the internet for information to construct a story, generates a voice-over, gathers images and music, then “edits” it all together to produce a video— which it not only posts on YouTube, but alters the algorithm to generate “likes” which will prioritize the video in a viewer’s sidebar. The engineer who wrote the thread claims that he is not sure if the “like” are generate with software of manually, but it’s a method used to tweak YouTube’s algorithm to produce results for the content.

This is the latest tool in cyber warfare. In the information age, wars are no longer fought with guns and tanks. These days, they’re fought with keyboards and content- all of which are generated by Artificial Intelligence. Hearts and minds aren’t won with boots on the ground, they’re won with butts in seats, garnering “likes” and “retweets”. These aren’t your grandfather’s wars…

This thread is worth the read, so take the time to do so.

Charles Conyers