As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis begins aggressively attacking former President Donald J. Trump, his campaign has released three images of the former president hugging Dr. Anthony S. Fauci that forensic experts say are almost certainly » realistic looking deepfakes » generated by artificial intelligence.
The images – which appear authentic at first glance and are interspersed with actual photographs in a campaign video – show Mr. Trump embracing and kissing Dr. Fauci, who has spearheaded the nation’s pandemic response and has come under sharp criticism from part of Mr. DeSantis. The governor has used the pandemic to counter his main rival for the Republican presidential nomination.
A Twitter account run by Mr. DeSantis’ campaign posted the images, part of a video attacking Mr. Trump, on Monday. The Agence France-Presse news agency before reported which appeared fake on Wednesday.
The governor’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Trump’s Republican allies criticized the DeSantis campaign. Senator JD Vance of Ohio wrote on Twitter: « Besmearing Donald Trump with false images of artificial intelligence is completely unacceptable. » Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia agrees, saying, « Those fake AI campaign ads need to be removed immediately. »
In turn, DeSantis’ camp suggested the images were obviously fake, comparing them to memes spread by Trump and his allies. But those images — which included a video of Mr. DeSantis in a women’s suit adapted from « The Office » and a « recording » of a conversation between Mr. DeSantis, Adolf Hitler and the Devil — were clearly intended to be humorous and easy to discern. as forged.
On Twitter, Christina Pushaw, director of rapid response for the DeSantis campaign, shared a fake photo of Mr. DeSantis riding a rhino (a reference to allegations that he is a « Republican in name only » or RINO), writing, « I think This could be an AI-generated image. Who knows? » The image, which appeared to have been photoshopped, was previously posted by Trump on his website Truth Social.
As the 2024 campaign heats up, the use of such deepfakes has been a cause of urgent concern for those who study manipulated images, which thanks to new technology are easier to generate than ever. While Americans have become far more skeptical of print, digital and television news, experts said, they are more likely to trust videos and images they could examine with their own eyes. The advent of deepfakes could change that.
« This is the great information security problem of the 21st century, » said Matthew Stamm, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University, who reviewed images of Mr. Trump and Dr. Fauci and strongly doubted the their authenticity.
After President Biden announced he would seek re-election, the Republican National Committee released a video with AI-generated imagery including China invading Taiwan, claiming to represent a potential future should he win again in 2024 Unlike DeSantis’ video, the RNC announcement acknowledged, in small white type in the upper left of the screen, that it was « constructed entirely of AI visuals. »
Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the use of such tactics will only increase.
« We will continue to see campaigns, state-sponsored actors, trolls and people who want to wreak havoc using these fake images to drive their own agendas, » said Farid, who also concluded that the images posted by the DeSantis campaign were the most likely fake .
While he described the three images as « pretty clumsy » — pointing to flaws in Mr. Trump’s hair and ear, as well as gibberish written in what appeared to be a White House seal and an American flag with a bizarre star motif — he he said that generative AI was rapidly becoming more sophisticated. For example, he said, the technology had already adapted to produce more authentic looking hands, a prime flaw in its realism.
« These are well-known signs that an AI-based synthetic image generator was likely used to create these images, » said Farid, who added that some experts were starting to systematically review campaign materials for signs that contain deepfakes.
He said politicians would now have a ready-made excuse when genuine depictions of their actions — such as Trump’s infamous « Access Hollywood » tape — appeared in public.
« They have plausible deniability, » Mr. Farid said. « They can say it’s fake. »
Jonathan Swan AND Shane Goldmacher contributed report.