5 times artificial intelligence fooled the internet in 2023

Deepfakes are a bit like virus mutations, in that the “best” or even “most effective” ones are deeply disturbing. After generative AI went mainstream last year with the widespread release of text-spewing chatbots, social media has exploded with algorithmically generated images and sound to accompany them. So while the AI ​​kept scoring wins, the underdog was everyone’s grip on reality.

On the plus side, some deepfakes don’t look like it(opens in a new tab) they were meant to deceive anyone. Some are even downright extravagant(opens in a new tab). Unfortunately, the ones that go viral are in much grayer territory, ethically speaking.

These are the first half of 2023 deepfakes that made headlines because their deep falsehood isn’t false enough to comfort. Enjoy and feel free to share them as entertainment, but please don’t use them to spread hoaxes. The world already has more than enough lies.

1. The fictional version of Trump’s arrest

As the world awaited the arrest of former President Donald Trump, journalist and Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins decided to get creative. Using the AI ​​Image Generator Midjourney, Higgins created images of Trump violently resisting arrest, escaping from the NYPD, and performing various prison activities while wearing an orange jumpsuit.

In reality, Trump surrendered to law enforcement on April 20 and was allowed to surrender a mugshot by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. So those hoping to see a real version of the fantasy AI were likely disappointed by the undramatic reality of the allegation.

2. The ‘Papa Balenciaga’ too good to be true

When an image of Pope Francis wearing a huge white puffer jacket went viral in March, the internet was overjoyed to see the Pope’s elegant sartorial update. Unfortunately, it was fake. The Pope’s image was created in a Balenciaga-style quilt(opens in a new tab) from a 31-year-old construction worker who uses Midjourney.

But the image was realistic enough to fool many people, including Chrissy Teigen who tweeted(opens in a new tab), “I thought the Pope’s duvet was real and I didn’t think twice. There’s no way I’m going to survive the future of technology.” We hear you, Chrissy.

3. Harry Potter at the service of Balenciaga (not) reality

As it turns out, Generative AI and Balenciaga go hand-in-hand, since the fashion house was referenced twice in the same month. But this time, Midjourney has given Harry Potter characters the Balenciaga treatment. “You’re Balenciaga, Harry,” a smoking Hagrid says to a sunken-cheeked, pouting Harry Potter over dark trance music.

In the video all of the main characters are blown away in some way, with razor sharp cheekbones and withered stares reminiscent of a fashion campaign that takes itself way too seriously. The YouTube video, made by Demonflyingfox, is called “Harry Potter by Balenciaga”, so it was never intended to fool people into believing it was real. But the way it nails the tone, aesthetic and rendition of Harry Potter characters as Balenciaga models is a prime example of what tools like Midjourney can achieve.

4. The Weeknd and Drake collaboration that never happened

In April 2023, The Weeknd and Drake released a fiery single called “Heart on My Sleeve”. Except they didn’t. It was generated by artificial intelligence by an anonymous creator named Ghostwriter. The song went viral, not because of how catchy it is (and it is catchy), but because of the messy copyright issues that generative AI poses to the music industry.

While it’s unclear what technology was used to create the song, it’s incredibly easy to create audio deepfakes. There are a number of tools out there that use text-to-speech or an existing audio clip to essentially clone someone’s voice and make them say whatever you want.

The song was eventually removed from YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services for copyright infringement. In a statement to Billboard, The Weeknd and Drake’s record label Universal Music Group said:

Training Generative AI using music from our artists (which is both a violation of our agreements and a violation of copyright law), as well as the availability of infringing content created with Generative AI on DSPs, begs the question which side of the story all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: on the side of artists, fans, and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud, and denial of due compensation to artists.

5. The Pentagon Explosion Hoax

Unlike Papa Balenciaga who was quite harmless, the fake image of an explosion at the Pentagon shows how dangerous generative AI can be in nefarious hands. In May, an image of fire and billowing clouds of smoke from an apparent explosion near the Pentagon circulated on Twitter.

The image was quickly debunked as a deepfake by local law enforcement. But the fake photo had real consequences, causing the stock market to drop briefly. Based on the blurry fence in front of the building and the irregular size of the columns, it was quite clear that the image was either AI-generated or digitally manipulated. But as generative AI becomes more advanced, deepfakes will be harder to spot.


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