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A fake personality created by AI was used to push the conspiracy theory against Hunter Biden

The conspiracy theory caught on like wildfire after being pushed by far-right websites and influencers.

A fake personality created by AI was used to push the conspiracy theory against Hunter Biden
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Hunter Biden attends the T&C Philanthropy Summit with screening of "Generosity Of Eye" at Lincoln Center with Town & Country on May 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Town & Country)

The internet was flooded with disinformation prior to the 2016 presidential election targeting Hillary Clinton and it played a part in enabling Donald Trump to win the elections. Four years later, Donald Trump's opponent, this time Joe Biden, is subject to a disinformation campaign with the 2020 presidential election around the corner. Donald Trump and the right-wing targeted Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, pushing conspiracy theories that he and his father made corrupted deals with the Communist Party of China. The main source of the conspiracy theory—that spread like wildfire in the right-wing internet ecosphere—was a document that was authored by a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen. It turns out the document was the work of a fake "intelligence firm", with Aspen being nothing but a fabricated personality, reported NBC News. Aspen's profile picture was created using an artificial intelligence face generator. This further raises questions if foreign powers are using a disinformation campaign to help Donald Trump, as warned by US intelligence. 



The fake document by the fake security analyst working for a fake "intelligence firm" called Typhoon Investigations claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden's son and business in China were connected. The 64-page composition claimed close ties between China and Joe Biden. The document was spread far and wide by close associates of Donald Trump and toxic far-right websites. One of the original posters of the fake document was a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, who later confirmed that he had written some parts of the document. He also confirmed "Aspen" doesn't exist. Swiss Security Solutions, the intelligence firm that Aspen listed as his previous employer, refuted claims anyone of that name ever worked for them. Public records and social media searches also revealed that no one by that name lives in Switzerland. 



The conspiracy theories reached parts of the mainstream media after the New York Post published an unverified leak of documents that alleged having salacious images of Hunter Biden and incriminating documents linking Biden to China. Rudy Giuliani had provided a hard drive that he claimed was Hunter Biden's to the New York Post. A Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed that Hunter Biden left his laptop at the store and forgot to take it back. Rudy Giuliani promised more explosive leaks but they haven't been released as of yet. Considering the election is in three days, you'd think they would release it. Tucker Carlson claimed damning evidence against Biden that was sent by mail—yes, physical mail—simply disappeared. We were also led to believe that Fox News producers in New York, who knew the documents were confidential and damning, didn't make a single copy of them before sending them to Los Angeles, where it disappeared. Later, Giuliani admitted there's a 50/50 chance he may have got the information from a Russian spy.    



Balding, who first posted the document, was previously an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam. Initially, he claimed the report was handed to him but later admitted to writing some of it. "Roughly two months ago I was handed a report about Biden activities in China the press has simply refused to cover. I want to strongly emphasize I did not write the report but I know who did," said Balding in an email, but later corrected himself, "I authored small parts of the report and was involved in report preparation and review." Balding admitted Aspen was a fake personality. Aspen is "an entirely fictional individual created solely for the purpose of releasing this report," said Balding, defending the alleged original author, who he claimed required "anonymity due to personal and professional risks." Balding also appeared on Steve Bannon's podcast and on "China Unscripted," a podcast produced by The Epoch Times, a pro-Trump media outlet. The document went viral once Balding shared it with the far-right internet websites. It was also posted on the extremist forum 8kun by Q, the anonymous account behind the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.



Elise Thomas, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, knew the image of Aspen was fake the moment she set her eyes on his image. Thomas found Aspen's ears were asymmetrical, but the clincher was his left eye; his left iris was jutting out to form a second pupil, a common error with computer-generated faces. "The most obvious tell was the irregular shape of the irises," Thomas said. "The profile picture looks pretty convincing in the Twitter thumbnail, but when I popped it up into full view I was immediately suspicious." Thomas found that Aspen's Facebook was created only in August this year. The Hunter Biden story has certainly caught the imagination of the right-wing but it remains to be seen if it can tip scales in favor of Donald Trump.

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