(CNN) — The questioned president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro joined the controversial debate on Wednesday regarding the allegations of the use of artificial intelligence to misinform in Venezuela. The president criticized a note published in Spain’s El País that affirms that avatars that pretend to be news presenters spread false and unconfirmed information about the economic situation of the South American country.
Maduro reacted ironically and assured that it was a robot while imitating the mechanical movement of these creations. “They accuse us that we are robots, that we do not exist… No, it is not artificial intelligence, it is popular intelligence, it is revolutionary intelligence.”
CNN was able to verify that there are no such television presenters and that it is not a real newscast either. On the Synthesia website, CNN identified Andy, Thomas and Emma as avatars serving any user who wants to create content.
These three avatars are the same ones that appear in the videos about the supposed economic recovery of Venezuela, and were published by House of Newsan alleged agency that only appears to have had a YouTube account since January 26 of this year.
CNN has made efforts, so far without success, to contact those responsible for the account. It is also unclear who is funding the campaign. Similarly, CNN contacted Synthesia to find out more about this work and if its client is the Government of Venezuela. There has been no response.
CNN also asked the Venezuelan government if it is related to these videos, but so far they have not responded.
The story of these vicissitudes, which spoke of the supposed economic recovery of Venezuela without citing figures, went viral this week and highlighted the concerns of journalists and experts about the use of artificial intelligence to spread propaganda and disinformation in a country with a very weak system of independent media.
For example, the NGO Cazadores de Fake News explained that videos featuring avatars generate much more confusion. “First, a false source is created, called “House of News”, which is not a newscast but pretends to be one, and a false anchor is also created to give it credibility. They are common practices to misinform,” added its director Adrián González.
For his part, the coordinator of the C-informa coalition, Andrés Cañizales, assured in an interview with CNN that making these videos “is not excessively expensive, nor excessively difficult, nor excessively slow.” He said that it is a tool that is now within the reach not only of governments but of any other that tries to misinform.
The editorial director of factchequeado.com, Tamoa Calzadilla, affirmed that what is being seen is an improvement in the techniques to misinform and that this is none other than the deep fake. Calzadilla described it as “a manipulation through digital techniques such as artificial intelligence to create moving images with audio and characters that are not real but are shown as such to confuse and deceive the public.”
In the opinion of Víctor Amaya, director of the newspaper Tal cual and Espaja.com, this type of campaign “makes more noise in the public conversation in Venezuela.” “If a person cannot trust anything that happens on the networks, then he distrusts everyone. Of the most consolidated media, of those that are not, of those that are new”.
The story of the avatars Andy, Thomas and Enma talks about the economic recovery of Venezuela. This optimism contrasts with the Ecoanalítica reports. In January of this year, according to the firm, there was a 17.5% drop in the sales volume index compared to the same month in 2022.