Trump supporters target black voters with faked AI images

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


Manipulated Images of Black Trump Supporters

Numerous deepfake images portraying black people as supporting Donald Trump have been discovered by BBC Panorama. These images, created using artificial intelligence (AI), were shared by Trump supporters in an attempt to sway black voters to vote Republican. However, there is no direct evidence linking these images to Trump's campaign.

The co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group that encourages black people to vote, believes that these manipulated images are part of a 'strategic narrative' meant to present Trump as popular among the black community. One of the creators of these images admitted that they were not claiming accuracy. The emergence of AI-generated fake images is a disinformation trend observed ahead of the US presidential election.

US Voters Behind the Spread of AI-generated Images

Unlike the foreign influence campaigns observed in the 2016 election, the AI-generated images found by the BBC were created and shared by US voters themselves. For example, a conservative radio show in Florida shared an AI image of Trump with black women to support an article about black voters supporting Trump. Although the image initially appears real, closer inspection reveals tell-tale signs of AI-created images, such as shiny skin and missing fingers.

The creator of the image defended their actions, stating that they are a storyteller rather than a photojournalist. They also emphasized that the responsibility lies with the individual if their vote is influenced by an AI image. Another widely viewed AI image shows Trump posing with black voters on a front porch. While it was originally posted by a satirical account, it gained attention when reposted with a false caption claiming that Trump had stopped his motorcade to meet these people.

Targeting Black Communities with Disinformation

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, highlighted the resurgence of disinformation tactics targeting the black community, especially younger black voters. According to Albright, there is a 'very strategic narrative' pushed by conservatives to win over black voters and specifically target young black men. Manipulated images of Joe Biden with voters from a particular demographic were not found, but images featuring Biden alone or with other world leaders, both created by critics and supporters, were observed.

Albright believes that fake images are consistent with the narrative aiming to sway black voters into supporting Republicans. On Monday, MAGA Inc, the main political action committee backing Trump, is launching an advertising campaign targeting black voters in three swing states. The BBC spoke to a taxi driver in Atlanta who explained that his main concerns are the economy and immigration, which he feels Trump prioritizes. This demonstrates how disinformation tactics can play into existing beliefs and perceptions.


The Risks of AI-generated Content and Influence Operations

Experts warn that disinformation tactics in the 2024 US presidential election could be a dangerous combination of foreign influence and home-grown disinformation. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are increasingly able to identify fake automated accounts, so operations try to co-opt real people to spread divisive or misleading information. Influencers with large social media audiences become potential vectors for foreign influence operations.

Ben Nimmo, who countered foreign influence operations at Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, stressed the importance of vetting content to avoid inadvertently becoming part of foreign influence operations. With the rise of AI-generated content, social media companies have implemented policies to address potential influence operations. However, there is concern about the capability of these operations to manipulate users into sharing and spreading content under the guise of real US voters.

The risks of AI-generated content were highlighted in the 2020 election, where false narratives about election theft spread online and led to the US Capitol riot. As the tools available to political partisans and provocateurs evolve, there is potential for even greater manipulation in future elections.