When wildfires swept across Maui, Hawaii, last month with destructive fury, China’s increasingly resourceful information warriors pounced.

The disaster was not natural, they said in a flurry of false posts that spread across the internet, but was the result of a secret "weather weapon” being tested by the United States.

To bolster plausibility, the posts carried photographs that appeared to have been generated by artificial intelligence programs, making them among the first known to have used these new tools to amplify the aura of authenticity of a disinformation campaign.