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AI deepfakes are being weaponised in the race for US president - and Trump is the latest target

Fake images of Trump embracing Fauci were used in an attack ad by Ron Desantis's campaign
Fake images of Trump embracing Fauci were used in an attack ad by Ron Desantis's campaign Copyright AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/Patrick Semansky
Copyright AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/Patrick Semansky
By Luke Hurst
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The campaign for Donald Trump's GOP rival tweeted out a video containing fake images of the former president hugging and kissing Dr Anthony Fauci.

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Artificial Intelligence-generated images have been weaponised in the race for the Republican party presidential candidacy in the US, with former president Donald Trump on the receiving end of fake images.

In a video put out by the campaign for his GOP rival candidate Ron Desantis, Trump is criticised for not firing Anthony Fauci, the former chief medical advisor who oversaw the US’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Often the subject of attacks from conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine campaigners, Fauci is something of a political football in the Republican party.

In a Trump-focused attack ad posted on social media earlier this week, the DeSantis War Room account published a video that started with clips of the former president firing people on the TV show The Apprentice, in which Trump gained nationwide recognition as a TV star.

"You’re fired" became his catchphrase - and the video goes on to apparently criticise him for failing to fire Fauci during his time as president.

The caption accompanying the video reads: "Donald Trump became a household name by FIRING countless people *on television* - But when it came to Fauci…"

The video included a section with a number of still photos showing Trump and Fauci together, a number of which have been confirmed as AI-generated.

The fake images show Trump hugging and kissing Fauci, with no mention in the video that the images are fake.

There is a Community Note underneath the tweet explaining that some of the images are fake and AI-generated.

"In addition, Trump could not directly fire Dr. Fauci without the move going through an administrative judge or a late EO," the note added.

Generative AI being used to spread misinformation

The explosive rise in the popularity and use of AI-generated text, audio, images, and video has caused a similar rise in anxieties around how manipulated media could become an increasing danger to society and democracy.

Famous individuals and politicians are particularly at risk because they do a lot of speaking to the camera, staying still, looking straight down the lens.
Henry Ajder
Deepfake specialist

One of the key issues many AI experts are worried about is generative AI being used to spread fake news, disinformation, and propaganda at a pace that regulators and authorities cannot keep up with.

Even leaders in the AI field, such as Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, are warning that government regulation and oversight are needed to address the risks posed by AI.

In May, the effects of AI on democratic processes were made apparent, with AI-generated content entering the discourse in Turkey’s presidential election.

A video showing presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaking perfect English in a video caused a stir once it was revealed the video was AI-generated.

Deepfake specialist Henry Ajder told Euronews Next at the time that when AI videos designed to be satirical are taken out of context - which was the case here - they can be mistaken as real.

"Famous individuals and politicians are particularly at risk because they do a lot of speaking to the camera, staying still, and looking straight down the lens. That’s an easier form of video to manipulate than if they’re moving around and their profile is changing," he explained.

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