The underside of the fake news, the chronicle – The progress of artificial intelligence hijacked by misinformation

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Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, it is now possible to easily generate fake portraits or stylized profile photos. This is what several free mobile applications allow. A fashionable technology, hijacked by those who spread false information.

For several weeks, new types of profile photos have invaded social networks. Faces in a style cartoon, manga, or even in space, these portraits are the result of free mobile applications that use artificial intelligence. To do this, you just need to provide a few photos of a face and then let the software work.

Some applications go further and make it possible to create a face from scratch, seemingly larger than life. It is in particular this use that certain propagators of false information are using more and more.

A dangerous practice

This practice can represent a danger insofar as these portraits can deceive the vigilance of Internet users. A study by scientists from the University of London, published on December 7, 2022 in the scientific journal Science, shows that fake faces made artificially are considered more real than some real faces. An astonishing result which can be explained, among other things, by the enormous technical progress made by artificial intelligence.

This perception plays an important role in terms of reception since this study also reveals that users more easily place their trust in profiles that they consider to be real. In other words, the false portrait is now an easy and accessible way to give credibility to false information on social networks.

Disinformation in progress

Among the recent examples of abuse of this practice is a Twitter account that appeared last September and presents itself as that of a Canadian named Dan. His profile picture, a man in a suit, is a portrait created by artificial intelligence. Since its creation, the account has been very active with more than 80 tweets per day on average.

Most of the tweets from this very recent account contain misinformation. © Screenshot / RFI editing

In the content he publishes, there is a lot of infox, especially around the clash that took place on December 9, 2022, between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the Himalayan border, disputed between the two countries. Photo in support, he claims, wrongly, that 300 Indian soldiers would have lost their lives in this incident.

No, the latest clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayas did not result in the death of 300 Indian soldiers.
No, the latest clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayas did not result in the death of 300 Indian soldiers. © Screenshot / RFI editing

A photo taken out of context

This statement is totally false. According to several local sources and people close to the Indian army, there were several injuries on each side, but no soldiers were killed. The photo falsely used as evidence, which shows two men lying on cots, was taken out of context.

A reverse image search finds the first occurrences in the press of this photo from the Press Trust of India agency.
A reverse image search finds the first occurrences in the press of this photo from the Press Trust of India agency. © Screenshots/ Editing RFI

Thanks to reverse image searchwe know that this photo is from April 2015 and was taken by a journalist from the Indian News Agency Press Trust of India. In reality, it shows Indian police officers injured in an attack by Maoist rebels in east-central India.

This shot therefore has nothing to do with the recent incident between China and India in the Himalayas. This is a disinformation campaign that aims to stir up an already particularly tense situation in the region.

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The underside of the fake news, the chronicle – The progress of artificial intelligence hijacked by misinformation


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