Google Researchers Say Misinformation Through AI Images Surges

Researchers at Google believe fake images generated by artificial intelligence (AI) have become more common, similar to those manipulated by editing tools such as Photoshop or even text. This shows just how quickly this technology has been accepted by individuals who want to spread false information.

The researchers observe that while artificial intelligence is only one way in which images are being used to mislead people, real images being taken out of context remains the most common way.

For their research, the investigators conducted an analysis of more than 135,000 fact checks that dated back to 1995, with most of them being published in the last seven years. Their objective was to track misinformation trends, determining that artificial intelligence accounted for little picture-based information until spring last year, around the time when fake images of Pope Francis in a puffer coat were posted online.

The researchers also discovered that almost 80% of misinformation claims that were fact-checked involved media such as videos and images, with videos making up the majority of those claims since 2022. In addition, researchers determined that real images paired with incorrect claims about what they implied or depicted continued to spread without the need for artificial intelligence or even photo editing.

In their report, the researchers stated that the unexpected prominence of content generated by artificial intelligence in fact-checked misinformation claims suggested that the landscape was rapidly changing. They added that generative artificial intelligence images made up a significant portion of all images associated with misinformation.

The first individual to identify and review this study in a newsletter, Alexios Mantzarlis, stated that generative AI tool democratization had made it easier for everyone to spread false information on the web. Mantzarlis is also the director of the Security, Trust and Safety Initiative at Cornell Tech.

He explained that we were currently going through a wave of technological advancement that had the capacity to alter and manipulate reality in shocking ways. He then emphasized the need to adapt quickly and come up with safeguards to avoid harms from the technology.

This comes as artificial intelligence-based misinformation continues to become harder to detect as the tech advances. Standard hallmarks of pictures generated by AI, including abnormalities such as muddled text and warped hands, have decreased greatly since these tools were first released to the public.

To reliably differentiate between real and fake information as artificial intelligence tools become more advanced, individuals will also have to learn to question the source or distributor of content.

Companies that are engaged in developing a variety of AI technologies, such as International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), may have to work with the authorities in order to find ways to limit the damage that can result when misinformation via AI images is widely circulated among the public.

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