Who is Martin Aspen? Here's why Christopher Balding claims fake AI-generated human sparked Hunter Biden conspiracy
'The profile picture for Aspen immediately showed signs of being a computer-generated image that can be created by computers,' a report read
Hunter Biden has been at the center of allegations after an explosive report claimed controversial emails and documents from his laptop had been leaked. A month before that, a 64-page document about a conspiracy theory involving his business deals in China went viral.
As per NBC News, the document that was reportedly disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm" called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents. The same report says that the author of the document — a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen — was created with an artificial intelligence face generator, according to an analysis by disinformation researchers.
Reports say that "no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches". A blogger and professor named Christopher Balding first took credit for writing parts of it and said that Aspen does not exist when asked about it.
Did Christopher Balding author it?
In a thorough investigation by NBC News, the Typhoon Investigations document was found to be posted in September to Intelligence Quarterly, an anonymous blog "dedicated to collecting important daily news". The report claims it was first registered to Albert Marko — a self-described political and economic adviser — who said he received it from Balding.
Previously an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam who studied the Chinese economy and financial markets, Balding posted the document on his blog on October 22, seven weeks after it was initially published. He told the outlet, "I had really not wanted to do this but roughly 2 months ago I was handed a report about Biden activities in China the press has simply refused to cover. I want to strongly emphasize I did not write the report but I know who did."
Balding's bio says he worked as an Associate Professor at Peking University HSBC School of Business Shenzhen, China, and is a non-resident Research Fellow at ESADE Geo-Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. He also wrote a blog saying, "A number of months ago, I was approached by an individual I had known for the better half of a decade. They asked my help in putting the research report in the hands of press asking them just to use the information for their own professional purposes leaving the report anonymous."
Claiming that he wrote some parts of it, he added, "I authored small parts of the report and was involved in report preparation and review. As a researcher, and due to the understandable worry about foreign disinformation, it was paramount that the report document activity from acknowledged and public sources. Great care was taken to document, cite, and retain information so that acknowledged facts could be placed in the public domain."
Is Martin Aspen fake?
When Balding was asked about Aspen, he dubbed him as "an entirely fictional individual created solely for the purpose of releasing this report". However, Balding refused to name the document's main author, saying "the primary author of the report, due to personal and professional risks, requires anonymity". Moreover, Balding said the document was commissioned by Apple Daily and a spokesperson from the Hong Kong-based tabloid confirmed it.
It was the image of the author that first sowed suspicions. Elise Thomas, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, first spotted the signs and noticed a Twitter account for Aspen named @TyphoonInvesti1, which had posted a link to Typhoon's WordPress page. The NBC News report reads: "The profile picture for Aspen immediately showed signs of being a computer-generated image that can be created by computers and even some websites. Aspen's ears were asymmetrical, for one, but his left eye is what gave away that he did not really exist. Aspen's left iris juts out and appears to form a second pupil, a somewhat frequent error with computer-generated faces."
Here are tweets that reveal how it is fake.
"Martin Aspen," who wrote a viral Hunter Biden dossier, wound up being an AI-generated persona.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) October 29, 2020
The first tipoff he wasn't real? Disinformation researcher @elisethoma5 looked in his eyes.
"The most obvious tell was the irregular shape of the irises."https://t.co/oA4aKTjkUp pic.twitter.com/K4pUyPto1x
Months before the NY Post story, a document passed around far-right websites detailed a vast Hunter Biden conspiracy.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) October 29, 2020
The document's creator, Martin Aspen, claimed to be a Swiss intel professional.
But Aspen's face was created by AI. He doesn't exist.https://t.co/oA4aKTjkUp pic.twitter.com/U1MNqh8WmW
However, now a new Twitter handle named @martin__aspen challenges Balding's words from his blog where he says, "Only three human sources are used in the report. Two human sources only confirmed top-line information in the acknowledgment of an individual and no other information. The third human source was not consulted for the story but agreed to let the information be used for the story after the importance of the information became apparent."
"This post makes much more sense and is more entertaining once you realize @BaldingsWorld is talking about himself," one tweet read and another said, "The real question here is: Which of his Twitter handles is he referring to here? It must have been one of the older ones from like ... uhhhh ... five years ago." One tweet read, "Who qualifies their sources as “human”?" and then said, "Not sure if he is referring to me, or someone else here." He also added, "Surefire Intelligence and Typhoon Intelligence are sister companies."
The real question here is: Which of his Twitter handles is he referring to here?— Martin Aspen (@martin__aspen) October 30, 2020
It must have been one of the older ones from like ... uhhhh ... five years ago. pic.twitter.com/lmJN2VXW0L
Not sure if he is referring to me, or someone else here. pic.twitter.com/rkYD0T5kGe— Martin Aspen (@martin__aspen) October 30, 2020
Surefire Intelligence and Typhoon Intelligence are sister companies.https://t.co/wzm6Rxbpvs— Martin Aspen (@martin__aspen) October 30, 2020
The bio of the Twitter handle reads, "Investigator | Former Bloomberg Columnist | Former Ass. Professor | Jack off all Memes, Master of None," and it is said to have joined the micro-blogging site in January 2014.
MEAWW cannot independently verify the claims and does not support any opinions being made on the Internet.