How Deeply Fake AI-Generated Photos of Trump with Black Voters Could Change the 2024 Election

Wayne L. Smith, an engineer in the Washington, D.C. area, joked about a photo he saw last week of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump nestled among a group of smiling black people. Seeing the picture, he immediately panicked.

Smith said that everything he does to make black people like him is fake. Why wouldn’t that picture be fake too? It just didn’t feel right.”

Smith’s instincts about the image were correct. It was created by Trump supporter and conservative radio host Mark Kay, who admitted he used artificial intelligence to create the image and posted it on social media to his 1 million Facebook followers. Kaye did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

“I’m not out there knowing what’s really going on. I’m a storyteller,” Kaye told BBC News, which traced the origin of the images. “If someone votes one way or the other because of a picture they see on a Facebook page, that’s a problem with the person, not the post,” he added.

The Trump campaign did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment for this article, but a campaign official said last week: “The only people who use AI to interfere in the election are President Trump’s. Opponents. The Trump campaign has absolutely nothing to do with these AI images. Nor can we control what other people create and post.

Trump has made some inroads with black voters this election cycle. Sixteen percent of them said in an NBC News poll published in February that they would consider voting for Trump if the election were held today. That compares to 12 percent who supported Trump in 2020.

Still, the photo generation was the latest in a series of bizarre attempts — including claims that he was being persecuted in the legal system — by Trump, his campaign and his supporters to show a connection with black voters. tried to

“They want our vote but don’t know how to get it,” Smith said. “Biden’s no peach, but he’s no Trump. And he knows it. So he’s trying to do anything. Tricks. Tricks. And, to me, he’s making it worse by insulting us. “

On the one hand, said Rhonda Sherwood, who ran for a Democratic Illinois Senate seat this year, the move to appeal to black voters relies on racial stereotypes and can be offensive. In a recent NBC News focus group of likely black voters, all participants generally agreed that Trump’s rhetoric can often be racist.

“I have not been indicted for anything, which is nothing,” Trump told a group of black conservatives in South Carolina before the state’s primary last month. People have said that’s why black people like me, because they’ve been hurt and discriminated against so badly, and they actually see me as discriminated against. Going. It’s been pretty amazing but maybe, just maybe, there’s something.”

Calvin Lawrence, IBM’s chief training officer for responsible and trustworthy AI, said that all the while, these efforts to get black voters to embrace Trump may also appeal to white voters who have been skeptical of his previous statements and actions. found it painful.

“What about the independent white people who dislike him and won’t vote for him just because they think he’s racist?” Lawrence said. “When you see these deeply fake videos and images that are superimposed by AI with black people next to it, they’re also targeting these white voters and saying, ‘Look. I’m a race. Not racist. He’s not racist.’ They are using AI extensively.

In addition to the AI-generated photos, Trump has also boasted that black people will approach him because he took a mug shot.

“My mugshot,” Trump told the black conservative group. “We’ve all seen the mugshot, and you know who took it more than anyone else? The black population. You see black people walking around with my mugshot, you know. Those shirts. make them, and they sell them for $19. That’s amazing – millions, by the way.

In February, Trump unveiled the Never Surrender High-Top Sneaker, a $399 limited-edition pair of gold shoes with American flag details, a day after he and his company were indicted for real estate fraud. Ordered to pay $453 million in fines. Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo said in February that Trump’s gold shoes would appeal to black voters because “they like shoes.”

Rahna Epting, executive director of the progressive grassroots organization MoveOn, said the efforts were nothing more than bigotry disguised as campaigns. “Black voters have real concerns about concrete issues like the economy, safety and health care.”

Ray Richardson, a retired government worker in Atlanta, agreed. “Donald Trump sees me and my black vote as a cheap whore on the street corner,” Richardson said. “I want the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill passed, criminal justice reform. He doesn’t care about my intelligence or interest. It’s insulting and disrespectful.”

How Artificial Intelligence Will Affect Black Voters and the Electorate at Large

For many, the misuse of AI is particularly worrisome. Artificial intelligence expert Elizabeth M. Adams told NBC News that Kaye’s images of Trump using AI were a manifestation of “weaponizing or misusing the purpose of the tool.”

But it also came as no surprise to Adams, CEO of EMA Advisory Services, a company that focuses on the responsible use of AI.

He said that artificial intelligence is actually training the computer to think at a high speed like a human being. “And so, when, in a case like this, it’s being weaponized, it’s also a mirror of society. It’s all the things that people think — people’s prejudices.

That’s also troubling, Adams said. “It’s very unfortunate, but it’s a consequence of what happens when you don’t have a good vision of how to use AI,” Adams said in a phone interview from a conference in Saudi Arabia. ” “If you have bad actors before AI, they will just use the tools and continue to be bad actors.”

IBM’s Lawrence wrote a book, published last year, “Hidden in White Sight: How AI Empowers and Deepens Systemic Racism.” For the past four years, he said, he has been warning about the exploitation of AI. With Trump and his supporters, Lawrence said he sees a manifestation of his concerns — and more.

Lawrence said the big picture won’t sway black voters who “know what Trump stands for.” “The long-term effect of deep fakes is to create a zero-trust society, where people no longer believe what you say or what they see. With a zero-trust society, you can’t tell the truth from the lie. Truth fades.”

He cited the killing of George Floyd in 2020 as an example. “Imagine if the nation thought the woman’s video was deeply fake, thinking it was generated by AI?” he said of a bystander’s cell phone video of Floyd’s fatal encounter with Minneapolis police. “If people didn’t believe what they saw, would we have a social justice movement?”

According to an analysis published last month by the AI ​​Democracy Project, half of the answers to politics-related questions from AI chatbots like ChatGPT4 and Google Gemini were completely wrong.

Adams and Lawrence said this is just the beginning of AI’s arrival in elections. For Sherwood, a Chicago psychologist who ran for state Senate this year, it’s concerning.

“It’s going to be an intense political season,” said Sherwood, author of the 2021 book, “Survival, Healing and Evolution: Essays of Love, Compassion, Healing and Affirmation for Black People.” “In this cycle, the legitimacy of democracy is at stake.”

Sherwood said the volatility of the campaign — with its racial implications and potential for misinformation, despite some companies having policies against such practices — and the dream of Trump returning to the White House affected black voters. can do.

“Psychologically, many of us are already exhausted. We’re bombarded with so much information, and because there are so many different sources of information — including AI — that black people are psychologically You have to protect yourself.” “A lot of times that means that if you see something that strikes you in a certain way, you have to try to look at some other source of information to see if it’s the same. Believable or not. It’s a shame we have to go through all these hoops, but that’s the world we live in. But to make sure we get the right person in the White House.

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