Surveillance images from a U.N. sanctions report purportedly showing a North Korean vessel engaged in illegal trading 
United Nations Security Council / REUTERS

North Korean industry is critical to Pyongyang’s economy as international sanctions have already put a chill on its interaction with foreign investors who are traded in the market. Liberty Global Customs, which occasionally ships cargo to North Korea, stopped trading operations earlier this year because of pressure from the Justice Department, according to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Foreign Trade Committee.

The paragraph above has no basis in reality. It is complete and utter garbage, intended not to be correct but to sound correct. In fact, it wasn’t written by a human at all—it was written by GPT-2, an artificial intelligence system built by OpenAI, an AI research organization based in California.

Disinformation is a serious problem. Synthetic disinformation—written not by humans but by computers—might emerge as an even bigger one. Russia already employs online “trolls” to sow discord; automating such operations

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  • SARAH E. KREPS is Professor of Government and Faculty Fellow in the Milstein Program for Technology and Humanity at Cornell University.
  • MILES MCCAIN is Founder of Politiwatch and an advocate for personal privacy, digital rights, and government transparency.
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