April 20, 2024
A.I

Trump supporters attack black voters with fake AI images

  • By Mariana Primavera
  • BBC Panorama and Americast

Image source, IMAGE GENERATED BY AI

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This image, created by a radio host and his team using artificial intelligence, is one of dozens of deepfakes depicting black Trump supporters.

Donald Trump supporters have been creating and sharing fake AI-generated images of black voters to encourage African Americans to vote Republican.

BBC Panorama discovered dozens of deepfakes showing black people supporting the former president.

Trump has openly courted Black voters, who were key to Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

But there is no evidence directly linking these images to the Trump campaign.

The co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group that encourages black people to vote, said the manipulated images were driving a “strategic narrative” designed to show Trump as popular in the black community.

A creator of one of the images told the BBC: “I’m not saying it’s accurate.”

Fake images of black Trump supporters, generated by artificial intelligence (AI), are one of the emerging disinformation trends ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Unlike 2016, when there was evidence of foreign influence campaigns, the AI-generated images found by the BBC appear to have been created and shared by American voters themselves.

One of them was Mark Kaye and his team on a conservative radio show in Florida.

They created an image of Trump smiling with his arms around a group of black women at a party and shared it on Facebook, where Kaye has more than a million followers.

At first it looks real, but if you look closer, everyone’s skin is too shiny and they have missing fingers on their hands, some telltale signs of AI-created images.

“I’m not a photojournalist,” Kaye tells me from his radio studio.

“I’m not out there taking pictures of what’s really happening. I’m a storyteller.”

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Radio host Mark Kaye told the BBC it was the individual’s problem whether their vote was influenced by AI images.

He had published an article about black voters supporting Trump and attached this image, giving the impression that all of these people support the former president’s candidacy for the White House.

In the comments on Facebook, several users seemed to believe the AI ​​image was real.

“I’m not claiming it’s accurate. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, look, Donald Trump was at this party with all these African-American voters. Look how much they love him!'” he said.

“If someone votes one way or another for a photo they see on a Facebook page, it’s that person’s problem, not the post itself.”

Another widely seen AI image found by the BBC investigation shows Trump posing with black voters on a porch. It had originally been posted by a satirical account generating images of the former president, but only gained widespread attention when it was reposted with a new caption falsely claiming that he had stopped his motorcade to meet these people.

Image source, IMAGE GENERATED BY AI

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This image was widely seen on social media with a caption saying that Trump had stopped his motorcade to pose with these men.

We located the person behind the account named Shaggy, who is a committed Trump supporter living in Michigan.

“[My posts] have attracted thousands of wonderful, good-hearted Christian followers,” he said in messages sent to the BBC on social media.

When I tried to question him about the AI-generated image, he blocked me. His post has had more than 1.3 million views, according to social media site X. Some users reported him, but others appeared to have believed the image was real.

I found no images of Joe Biden similarly manipulated with voters of a particular demographic. AI images of the president tend to show him alone or with other world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin or former US President Barack Obama.

Some are created by critics, others by supporters.

In January, the Democratic candidate himself was the victim of AI-generated spoofing.

An automated audio call, purportedly made by the president, urged voters to skip the New Hampshire primary where he was running. A Democratic Party supporter admitted responsibility for it and said he wanted to draw attention to the potential for abuse of the technology.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of the campaign group Black Voters Matter, said there appeared to be a resurgence of disinformation tactics targeting the black community, such as in the 2020 election.

“There have been documented attempts to direct misinformation back at Black communities, especially younger Black voters,” he said.

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Cliff Albright, who runs an organization that encourages black people to vote, says younger black voters are targets of misinformation.

I show him the AI-generated images in his office in Atlanta, Georgia, a key electoral battleground state where convincing even a small portion of the overall black vote to switch from Biden to Trump could prove decisive.

A recent New York Times and Sienna College poll found that in six key swing states, 71% of Black voters would back Biden in 2024, a sharp drop from the 92% nationally that helped him win the White House in the last elections.

Albright said the fake images were consistent with a “very strategic narrative” pushed by conservatives – from the Trump campaign to online influencers – designed to win over black voters. They are particularly aimed at young black men, who are believed to be more open to voting for Trump than black women.

On Monday, MAGA Inc, the main political action committee backing Trump, will launch an ad campaign targeting Black voters in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It’s aimed at voters like Douglas, an Atlanta taxi driver.

Justin Webb and Marianna Spring travel from the frozen plains of Iowa to the swing state of Georgia to explore the enduring appeal of Donald Trump and look ahead to an unprecedented American election year.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (UK only) and on BBC One at 8pm on Monday 4 March (8.30pm in Wales and Northern Ireland)

Douglas said he was primarily concerned about the economy and immigration, issues he felt Trump was more focused on. He said Democratic messages about Trump’s threat to democracy would not motivate him to vote, because he was already disillusioned with the electoral process.

Overall, the U.S. economy is doing well, but some voters, like Douglas, aren’t feeling better because they’ve also been through a cost-of-living crisis.

What did you think of the AI-generated image of Trump sitting on a porch with black voters? When I first showed it to him, he believed it was real. He said he reinforced his view, shared by other black people he knows, that Trump supports the community.

Then I revealed it was fake.

“Well, that’s the thing about social media. It’s very easy to fool people,” he said.

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“It’s very easy to fool people” on social media, says taxi driver Douglas after seeing one of the AI ​​fakes

Disinformation tactics in the US presidential election have evolved since 2016, when Donald Trump won. At the time, there were documented attempts by hostile foreign powers, such as Russia, to use networks of inauthentic narratives to try to sow division and plant particular ideas.

In 2020, the focus was on local misinformation, particularly false narratives that the presidential election was stolen, which were widely shared by US-based social media users and supported by Trump and other Republican politicians.

In 2024, experts warn of a dangerous combination of the two.

Image source, IMAGE GENERATED BY AI

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At first glance, some voters overlook the telltale signs of an AI-generated image, which can sometimes include extra arms.

Ben Nimmo, who until last month was responsible for countering foreign influence operations at Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, said the confusion created by deepfakes like these also opens up new opportunities for foreign governments that may try to manipulate elections. .

“Anyone who has a substantial audience in 2024 needs to start thinking: How do I vet everything that’s sent to me? How do I make sure that I don’t unknowingly become part of some kind of foreign influence operation?” he said.

Nimmo said social media users and platforms are increasingly able to identify fake automated accounts, so as it becomes more difficult to build an audience this way, “operations are trying to co-opt real people” to increase the range of divisive or misleading information.

“The best bet they have is to try to land [their content] through an influencer. “He’s anyone who has a big audience on social media,” she said.

Nimmo said he was concerned that in 2024 these people, who may be willing to spread misinformation to their already prepared audiences, could become “unwitting vectors” of foreign influence operations.

These operations could share content with users, either covertly or overtly, and encourage them to post it themselves, so it appears to come from a real American voter, he said.

All major social media companies have policies in place to address potential influence operations, and several, such as Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, have introduced new measures to deal with AI-generated content during elections.

Top politicians around the world have also highlighted the risks of AI-generated content this year.

Narratives about the theft of the 2020 election, which were shared without any evidence, spread online with simple posts, memes and algorithms, not AI-generated images or videos, and still resulted in the US Capitol riot United on January 6.

This time, there are a whole new range of tools at the disposal of political supporters and provocateurs that could exacerbate tensions once again.

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