The former U.S. president Donald Trump still walks free as of the time of writing. But certain AI-generated photos on Twitter tell a different story. These deepfakes depict a world where one of the most powerful white men in America can be treated like any other citizen, meaning actually be held accountable for his actions. Except they’re not real. Some people believed they were, and that’s alarming for anyone who cares about media literacy.
This weekend, Trump told his supporters that he was expecting to be arrested on Tuesday over allegations of hush money paid to the former porn star Stormy Daniels. To be clear: The case against him exists. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has previously asked Trump to testify to a grand jury. Both legal minds and journalists are still speculating over whether or not he’ll be charged at all. So this whole saga is still far from a done deal. That hasn’t stopped Eliot Higgins, a citizen journalist, from using Midjourney to make these AI generated images of Trump being tackled and chased by the police.
While the original tweet has over three million views, these images have been shared across Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook, often without context or taking them at face value. Twitter hasn’t labeled these images as fake, so some people are having trouble with identifying them as machine generated (One tweet that pointed to this problem garnered over a thousand likes). Facebook is similarly chaotic. Some users chose to disclose the photos’ AI origins, and some didn’t. Many TikToks aren’t disclaiming that the images are AI-generated.
This is a huge problem when right-wing grifters like Ian Miles Cheong are using them to galvanize Trump supporters to action. New York City is already preparing for the former president’s supporters to riot in the streets over a possible arrest. These fake images of their “imperiled” leader just add more tinder to the fire. Kotaku reached out to ask Higgins for a comment, but did not receive one by the time of publication.
Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re savvy enough to tell whether or not these images are real. Outside of our social media bubbles, large swaths of the country are vulnerable to misinformation and fake news. These images have already made their way to Facebook, a platform with millions of vulnerable users. As long as Americans want a Trump arrest to be real, such images will continue to go viral.