China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, has revealed it will deploy a new digitally generated newsreader to report the news in both Chinese and English languages. The artificial anchor has been designed to reduce news production costs and increase efficiency, however, the use of the technology by a propagandic state-run news agency brings a new definition to the term "fake news."
The voice and appearance of the digital anchor is based on Chinese newsreader Zhang Zhao and Xinhua News Agency claims "he" can instantly report news as it happens 24 hours a day. The digital anchor is already available on several internet and mobile platforms in the country.
The system, as revealed in several videos recently released, is not exactly the most sophisticated digital character we have seen. Its voice has the undeniable artificial quality of a simplistic computer-generated text-to-speech engine, while the facial expressions and lip movements are unimpressively animated.
However, several other recent digital innovations have clearly demonstrated the massive potential for this kind of technology. From next-generation deepfake video techniques, to realistic voice-imitation systems, the ability to create digital avatars that perfectly resemble real humans is pretty much already here.
Perhaps the most concerning implication of this Chinese experiment is the entirely transparent move towards completely eliminating human personalities from the world of journalism. Media censorship in China is not a new news story, and the country is well-known for suppressing information that is counter to the state's interests. In many ways there isn't a particular difference in having a digital avatar spout the same propagandic scripts that a human anchor would read.
The most chilling thing is that this technology allows the government to openly create artificial human puppets that can parrot whatever they want without even offering the pretense of human journalistic credibility. Any semblance of trust that develops between a human newsreader and the general public is not only eliminated, but rendered fundamentally unnecessary. With this development, China is essentially saying it doesn't even need a human face to recite its state-sanctioned messages.
The big question that must now be asked is not how can we distinguish between what is real and what is fake, but whether we even care about the difference? With the rise of CGI Instagram influencers and digital reincarnations of long-dead actors, we are rapidly becoming accustomed to engaging with entirely artificial creations. Is this simply the next logical step in that process? The complete realization of the concept of "fake news."
Source: Xinhua News Agency
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