Trump supporters target black voters with fake AI images

  • By Mariana Spring
  • BBC Panorama and Americanist
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image source, AI generated image

image caption,

The photo, created by a radio host and his team using AI, is one of dozens of fake photos depicting black Trump supporters.

Donald Trump supporters are creating and sharing fake AI-generated photos of black voters to encourage African Americans to vote for the Republican.

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

Mr. Trump openly welcomed black voters, who were key to Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

But there is no evidence to directly link the images to Mr Trump’s campaign.

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

One image creator told the BBC: “I’m not claiming it’s accurate.”

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

Unlike in 2016, when there was evidence of a foreign influence campaign, the AI-generated images the BBC found were apparently created and shared by US voters themselves.

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

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

At first it looks real, but on closer inspection everyone’s skin is a bit too shiny and people’s hands are missing fingers – some of the telltale signs of AI-generated images.

“I’m not a photojournalist,” Mr. Cai told me from his radio studio.

“I’m not out there knowing what’s really going on. I’m a storyteller.”

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Radio show host Mark Kay told the BBC that if their vote was influenced by AI images, that was an individual problem.

He posted an article about black voters supporting Mr. Trump and attached the photo to it, giving the impression that they were all running for the former president’s White House. support the

In the comments on Facebook, many users believed that the AI ​​image was real.

“I’m not claiming that’s right. 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 is voting 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.”

Another widely seen AI image obtained by a BBC investigation shows Mr Trump posing with black voters on a front porch. It was originally posted by a satirical account that created images of the former president, but it only gained widespread attention when it was reposted with a new caption that claimed That he had stopped his car to meet these people.

image source, AI generated image

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The photo was widely seen on social media with the caption saying that Trump had stopped his car to pose with the men.

We tracked down the man behind the account named Shaggy, a staunch Trump supporter living in Michigan.

“[My posts] has attracted thousands of amazingly kind Christian followers,” he said in messages to the BBC on social media.

When I tried to question him on the AI-generated image, he blocked me. According to social media site X, her post has been viewed more than 1.3 million times. Some users called it out, but others think the photo is real.

I can’t find similar manipulative images of Joe Biden with voters of any particular demographic. AI photos of the president show him alone or with other world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin or former US President Barack Obama.

Some are made by critics, some by supporters.

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

An automated audio call, reportedly made by the president, urged voters to leave the New Hampshire primary where he was running. A Democratic Party supporter has claimed responsibility, saying he wants to draw attention to the technology’s potential for misuse.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of the campaign group Black Voters Matter, said the 2020 election sees a resurgence of disinformation tactics targeting the black community.

“There have been documented efforts to retarget black communities, particularly young black voters, with misinformation,” he said.

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Cliff Albright, who runs an organization that encourages black people to vote, says young black voters are misinformed.

I show him the AI-generated images in his office in Atlanta, Georgia — a key swing state to convince even a tiny sliver of the overall black vote to switch from Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump. Can be decisive.

A recent poll by The New York Times and Sinai College found that 71 percent of black voters in six key swing states would support Mr. Biden in 2024, down from the 92 percent nationally that gave him the upper hand. Helped win the White House in the last election.

Mr Albright said the fake photos fit a “highly strategic narrative” by conservatives – from the Trump campaign to online influencers – designed to win over black voters. They are particularly targeting young black men, who are believed to be more open to voting for Mr. Trump than black women.

On Monday, MAGA Inc., the main political action committee supporting Trump, is scheduled to launch an ad campaign targeting black voters in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It’s aimed at voters like Douglas, a cab driver in Atlanta.

Justin Webb and Mariana Spring travel from the frozen plains of Iowa to the swing of Georgia to discover Donald Trump’s enduring appeal and look forward to an unprecedented American election year.

Now let’s see on BBC iPlayer (UK only) and on BBC One on Monday 4 March at 20:00 (20:30 in Wales and Northern Ireland)

Douglas said he is primarily concerned about the economy and immigration — issues he feels Trump is focusing too much on. He said that Democratic messages about Trump’s threat to democracy would not encourage him to vote, because he was already disillusioned with the electoral process.

The U.S. economy is generally doing well, but some voters — like Douglas — don’t feel better because they, too, have gone through a life crisis.

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

Then, I revealed it was fake.

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

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“It’s so easy to fool people” on social media, says taxi driver Douglas after spotting an AI fake

Disinformation tactics in US presidential elections have evolved since 2016, when Donald Trump won. At the time, there were documented efforts by hostile foreign powers, such as Russia, to try to divide networks of inauthentic accounts and plant specific ideas.

In 2020, the focus was on domestically generated misinformation — particularly false narratives that the presidential election was rigged, which were widely shared by US-based social media users and promoted by Mr Trump and other Republican politicians. He was supported.

In 2024, experts have warned of a dangerous combination of the two.

image source, AI generated image

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

Ben Nimmo, who until last month was responsible for combating foreign influence operations at Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, said the confusion created by such fakes is new for foreign governments. It also opens up opportunities to try to manipulate elections.

“Anyone who has a substantial audience in 2024 needs to start thinking, How do I vet anything that’s sent to me? How do I make sure I’m not unwittingly part of a foreign influence operation?” become?” They said.

Social media users and platforms are increasingly able to identify fake automated accounts, making it harder to build an audience to increase the reach of distribution or misleading information, Mr Nammo said. Try to get people to opt in”.

“The best bet they have is to try and get off. [their content] Through an inspiration. It’s anyone who has a huge audience on social media,” he said.

Mr Nimmo said he was concerned in 2024 that these people, who might be willing to spread disinformation to their ready-made audiences, could become “unwitting vectors” for foreign influence operations.

These actions can share content with users — either covertly or overtly — and encourage them to post it themselves, so it looks like it’s coming from a real American voter, he said. has come.

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

Leading politicians around the world have also highlighted the dangers of AI-generated content this year.

Statements about the 2020 election being stolen — shared without any evidence — spread online with simple posts, memes and algorithms, not AI-generated images or videos, and yet on Jan. Riots broke out in the US Capitol.

This time, there is a whole new range of tools available to political supporters and provocateurs that can once again inflame tensions.

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