scorecardFake AI images now contributing to misinformation spread nearly as much as traditionally altered media: Research
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Fake AI images now contributing to misinformation spread nearly as much as traditionally altered media: Research

Fake AI images now contributing to misinformation spread nearly as much as traditionally altered media: Research
Tech2 min read
Fake images churned out by artificial intelligence (AI) are now spreading at an alarming rate, nearly matching the prevalence of those altered by traditional methods like Photoshop, according to research conducted by Google and several fact-checking organisations. The findings shed light on the rapid adoption of AI technology by those propagating misinformation.

In a recently released paper that is yet to undergo peer review, researchers delved into the trends of misinformation, NBC News reports. They analysed around 1,36,000 fact-checks spanning from 1995 to November 2023, with a significant surge in publications occurring after 2016.

Their analysis revealed a minimal presence of AI-generated image misinformation until early 2023 — right around the time when fake photos of Pope Francis in a puffer coat went viral.

“The sudden prominence of AI-generated content in fact-checked misinformation claims suggests a rapidly changing landscape,” the researchers wrote.

ALSO SEE: A small number of ‘superspreaders’ are propagating most of the misinformation on Twitter

However, they caution that AI constitutes just one avenue through which images are weaponised for misleading purposes. The most common method remains the misrepresentation of real images through contextual manipulation.

“While AI-generated images did not cause content manipulations to overtake context manipulations, our data collection ended in late 2023 and this may have changed since,” the researchers note. “Regardless, generative-AI images are now a sizable fraction of all misinformation-associated images.”

The study also highlighted the growing challenge of identifying AI-driven misinformation as technology progresses. Typical indicators of AI-generated images, such as distorted features or nonsensical text, are gradually becoming less prevalent as these tools become more sophisticated.

And although AI models aren't trained to replicate screenshots and memes, there's a possibility they'll swiftly adapt to generate such content as new iterations of advanced language models roll out.

As AI technology continues to evolve and intertwine with the digital landscape, it becomes imperative for the public to sharpen their critical thinking skills and scrutinise the origins of the information they consume. After all, it is only by staying informed and cautious that we’ll be able to safeguard the integrity of the information that shapes our perceptions and decisions.

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