Trump supporters create and share fake images to encourage African-Americans to vote Republican

The creator of one of the images told the BBC: "I'm not claiming it's real."

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This image, created by the radio host and his team using artificial intelligence, is one of dozens of fakes showing black Trump supporters, Photo: AI-GENERATED IMAGE
This image, created by the radio host and his team using artificial intelligence, is one of dozens of fakes showing black Trump supporters, Photo: AI-GENERATED IMAGE
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Supporters of Donald Trump are creating and sharing fake AI-generated images of him with black voters to encourage African-Americans to vote Republican.

BBC Panorama uncovered dozens of so-called "dipfakes" showing black people supporting the former president.

Trump has openly tried to court black voters, who were key to Joseph Biden's 2020 election victory.

But there is no evidence directly linking these images to Trump's official campaign.

The co-founder of Black Votes Matter, a group that encourages black people to vote, said the doctored images push a "strategic narrative" aimed at showing that Trump is popular in the black community.

The creator of one of the images told the BBC: "I'm not claiming it's real."

Fake images of black Trump supporters, generated by artificial intelligence, are just some of the disinformation trends that have emerged in the run-up to the US presidential election in November.

Unlike 2016, when there was evidence of foreign influence campaigns, the AI-generated images found by the BBC appear to have been made and shared by American voters themselves.

One of them is Mark Kay and his team from a conservative radio show in Florida.

They took a picture of Trump smiling while hugging a group of black women at a party and shared it on Facebook, where Kay has more than a million followers.

At first it looks real, but when you look a little closer, you'll see that everyone's skin is a little too shiny and that some people's hands are missing fingers - which are some of the most obvious signs that an image was created by artificial intelligence.

"I'm not a photojournalist," Kay tells me from her radio studio.

"I don't go out on the field to take pictures of what's really happening.

"I'm a storyteller." Supporters of Donald Trump are creating and sharing fake AI-generated images of him with black voters to encourage African-Americans to vote Republican.

He published an article about how black voters support Trump and pasted a picture of him, giving the impression that all these people support the candidacy of the former president for the new entry into the White House.

In the comments on Facebook, several users seemed to believe that the AI-generated images were authentic.

"I'm not saying they're real. I'm not saying, 'Hey, look, Donald Trump was partying with all these African-American voters. Look how much they just love him!'" he said.

"If someone votes one way or another because of a photo they see on a Facebook page, that's their problem, not the post itself."

Another widely viewed image created with the help of artificial intelligence shows Trump posing with male black voters on the front porch of a home.

It was originally posted by a satirical account that generates images of the former president, but only gained mass attention when it was reposted with a new signature, falsely claiming that Trump had stopped his motorcade to meet these people.

We found the person behind the account named "Shaggy" who is a dedicated Trump follower from Michigan.

"My posts have attracted thousands of wonderful, kind-hearted Christian followers," he said in a message sent to the BBC via social media.

When I tried to question him about the AI-generated image, he blocked me.

His post had more than 1,3 million views, according to the social network X.

Some users have called her out, but others seem to believe the image is real.

I have not found similarly manipulated images of Biden with voters from any particular demographic group.

In the images created with the help of artificial intelligence, he is usually alone or with other world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin or former US President Barack Obama.

Some of them were made by his critics, others by his followers.

In January, the Democratic candidate was also a victim of imitation with the help of artificial intelligence.

An automated voice message, purported to be the president's voice, urged voters to skip the New Hampshire primary, where he was running.

A Democratic Party supporter claimed responsibility for the video, saying he wanted to draw attention to the technology's potential to be misused.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of the campaign group Black Votes Matter, said there appears to be a surge in disinformation tactics targeting the black community, just like the 2020 election.

"There have been documented attempts to retarget black communities with disinformation, particularly younger black male voters," he said.

with the BBC

She showed him the AI-generated images herself in his office in Atlanta, Georgia — a key electoral battleground state where convincing even a tiny fraction of the overall black electorate to switch from Biden to Trump could prove decisive.

A recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College found that in six key "swing states" in 2024, Biden would have the support of 71 percent of black voters, a sharp drop from the 92 percent national support that helped him sweep the White House. house in the last election.

Albright says the fake images are consistent with a "very strategic narrative" being pushed by conservatives — from Trump's official campaign to online influencers — to win over black voters.

Younger black men, who are believed to be more open to voting for Trump than black women, have been particularly targeted.

MAGA Inc, a major political action group supporting Trump, announced it will launch an ad campaign targeting black voters in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It is aimed at voters like Douglas, a taxi driver from Atlanta.

Douglas says his main concerns are the economy and immigration — issues he believes Trump is much more focused on.

He says that messages from Democrats that Trump threatens democracy will not motivate him to vote, because he is already disappointed in the election process.

The U.S. economy is generally doing well, but some voters — like Douglas — don't feel like they're living any better because they're going through a cost-of-living crisis.

What does he think of the AI-generated images of Trump sitting on a porch with black voters?

When I first showed it to him, he believed it was real.

He says it reinforced his view, shared by some other black people he knows, that Trump supports his community.

Then I revealed to him that it was fake.

"Well, you see, that's how it is with social networks. It's easy to fool people," he said.

with the BBC

Disinformation tactics in the US presidential election have advanced since 2016, when Donald Trump won.

At the time, there were documented attempts by hostile foreign powers, such as Russia, to use networks of inauthentic accounts to try to sow discord and plant certain ideas.

Throughout 2020, the emphasis has been on domestic disinformation — particularly false narratives that the presidential election was rigged, widely shared by American social media users and endorsed by Trump and other Republican politicians.

Experts warn that this year will be a particularly dangerous combination of the two.

Ben Nimmo, who until last month was responsible for combating foreign influence operations at Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, said the confusion created by fakes like this one also opens up opportunities for foreign governments seeking to manipulate elections.

"Anyone with a large audience in 2024 needs to start thinking about how to verify everything they send them.

"How does one make sure they don't unknowingly become part of some kind of foreign influence operation?" he says.

Nimo said users of social networks and platforms are becoming more adept at spotting fake automated accounts, so as it becomes more difficult to gain an audience that way, "operations are trying harder to recruit real people" to increase the reach of polarizing or false information.

"The most profitable for them is to try to market their content through influencers. It's anyone who has a large following on social media," he says.

Nimo says he is concerned that in 2024 these people, who may be willing to spread disinformation for their pre-defined audiences, could become "unwitting vectors" of foreign influence operations.

These operations could share content with users — either covertly or openly — and encourage them to post it themselves, so it looks like it's coming from an American voter, he says.

All the companies that own major social networks have policies in place to combat potential foreign influence operations, and several of them - such as Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram - have introduced new measures to deal with content generated by artificial intelligence during elections.

Leading politicians from around the world have also highlighted the risk of content generated with the help of artificial intelligence this year.

Narratives of election theft in 2020 - shared without any evidence - spread online with the help of simple posts, memes and algorithms, not through images and videos generated with the help of artificial intelligence, and yet resulted in riots at the Capitol on January 6 .

This time we have a whole new range of tools available to political partisans and provocateurs who could once again bring various tensions to a boil.


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