Gaza deepfakes illustrate the power of AI to mislead

Injured baby in gaza in an AI-generated image
Injured Gaza baby photo which has been proven to be AI-generated (@AyaIsleemEn)

Digitally altered images have been used to make false claims about responsibility for casualties or to deceive people about atrocities that never happened.

Among images of the bombed-out homes and ravaged streets of Gaza, some stood out for the utter horror: Bloodied, abandoned infants.

Viewed millions of times online since the war began, these images are deepfakes created using artificial intelligence (AI). If you look closely, you can see clues: fingers that curl oddly or eyes that shimmer with an unnatural light. The outrage the images were created to provoke, however, is all too real.

While most of the false claims circulating online about the war didn’t require AI to create and came from more conventional sources, technological advances are coming with increasing frequency and little oversight. That’s made the potential of AI to become another form of weapon starkly apparent and offered a glimpse of what’s to come during future conflicts.

In some cases, photos from other conflicts or disasters have been repurposed and passed off as new. In others, generative AI programs have been used to create images from scratch, such as one of a baby crying amidst bombing wreckage that went viral in the conflict’s earliest days.

The fakes seem designed to evoke a strong emotional reaction by including the bodies of babies, children or families. The more abhorrent the image, the more likely a user is to remember it and to share it, unwittingly spreading the disinformation further.

“It’s going to get worse — a lot worse — before it gets better,” said Jean-Claude Goldenstein, CEO of CREOpoint, a tech company that uses AI to assess the validity of online claims.

“Pictures, video and audio: with generative AI it’s going to be an escalation you haven’t seen”.

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Fake babies, real horror: Deepfakes from the Gaza war increase fears about AI’s power to mislead (Associated Press)

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