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How AI turned a Ukrainian YouTuber into a Russian How AI turned a Ukrainian YouTuber into a Russian

A YouTuber falls victim to generative AI on Chinese social media, but the ramifications stretch beyond China.

How AI turned a Ukrainian YouTuber into a Russian


Olga’s Mandarin-speaking AI lookalikes began emerging in 2023 - soon after she started a YouTube channel which is not very regularly updated.

About a month later, she started getting messages from people who claimed they saw her speak in Mandarin on Chinese social media platforms.

Intrigued, she started looking for herself, and found AI likenesses of her on Xiaohongshu - a platform like Instagram - and Bilibili, which is a video site similar to YouTube.

“There were a lot of them [accounts]. Some had things like Russian flags in the bio,” said Olga who has found about 35 accounts using her likeness so far.

After her fiancé tweeted about these accounts, HeyGen, a firm that she claims developed the tool used to create the AI likenesses, responded.

They revealed more than 4,900 videos have been generated using her face. They said they had blocked her image from being used anymore.

A company spokesperson told the BBC that their system was hacked to create what they called “unauthorised content” and added that they immediately updated their security and verification protocols to prevent further abuse of their platform.

But Angela Zhang, of the University of Hong Kong, says what happened to Olga is “very common in China”.

The country is “home to a vast underground economy specialising in counterfeiting, misappropriating personal data, and producing deepfakes”, she said.