Fake Trump arrest photos: How to spot an AI-generated image
- By Kayleen Devlin and Joshua Cheetham
- BBC News
Fake images created by artificial intelligence (AI) tools depicting Donald Trump have surfaced on social media for the past week.
Many falsely showed the arrest of the former president, who could face charges of paying hush money to a woman he was allegedly having an affair with. He has not yet been charged with a crime.
Many of those who shared the images pointed out that they were fake and didn’t appear to fool many people – but some appeared to have been fooled.
On Thursday, Mr Trump also shared an AI-generated image on his own social media platform, Truth Social. It showed him kneeling in prayer.
What are some of the telltale signs of AI-generated imagery? And how can you tell a real one from a fake?
Does anything look “off”?
The images circulating online, like the one above, look hyper-real — more like staged artistic shots than snapshots.
A closer look reveals some obvious giveaways that something isn’t quite right.
Look at the center of the picture. Mr. Trump’s arm is way too short, and the cop on the left is grabbing what looks more like a claw than a human hand.
Similarly, if you focus on Mr Trump’s neck, you’ll notice that his head looks like it’s been superimposed over the image.
Henry Ajder, an AI expert and presenter of BBC radio series The Future Will be Synthesised, says current technology is not very good at representing certain body parts, especially hands.
“When you zoom in on the images, you often see inconsistencies like the number of fingers,” he says.
What are other people saying?
A simple check of a few news sites is a surefire way to make sure Mr Trump hasn’t been arrested or even charged — at least not yet.
If Mr Trump is charged, his arrest will make headlines around the world. And you can imagine the media frenzy if the former president somehow escaped from the police.
Another good idea is to think about the context in which an image is shared. Who shares it – and what are their motives?
People often share pictures to underscore their broader political views, even if they haven’t verified the photos are authentic, says Mr Ajder.
“We’ve seen really gross examples of other fakes, like the recording of Nancy Pelosi slowed down to make her sound drunk,” he adds. “It was super gross manipulation and yet a lot of people were fooled by it – or at least wanted to believe it.”
More strange details
A closer look at the photos themselves reveals more dubious details.
Unnatural skin tones and faces with waxy or blurred features are strong indicators that the image is fake.
In the image above, a person with a blurred face can be clearly seen in the center right. And Mr. Trump’s hair appears blurred while his face is in focus.
Even AI technology has not yet mastered the precise representation of eyes.
In the picture above, officials appear to be chasing Mr Trump – but they’re looking in a very different direction.
AI experts told the BBC that while fake images are “nothing new”, the speed of progress in the field and the potential for abuse are a cause for concern.
“Synthetic content is evolving rapidly and the divide between authentic and fake content is becoming increasingly difficult to decipher,” says Mounir Ibrahim of Truepic, a digital content analytics company.
Experts agree that Mr Trump’s fame makes the fakes easy to spot. But pictures of unknown people could complicate the task – and the technology is getting better.