The viral, AI-generated images of Donald Trump’s arrest you may be seeing on social media are definitely fake. But some of these photorealistic creations are pretty convincing. Others look more like stills from a video game or a lucid dream. A Twitter thread by Eliot Higgins, a founder of Bellingcat, that shows Trump getting swarmed by synthetic cops, running around on the lam, and picking out a prison jumpsuit was viewed over 3 million times on the social media platform.
What does Higgins think viewers can do to tell the difference between fake, AI images, like the ones in his post, from real photographs that may come out of the former president’s potential arrest?
“Having created a lot of images for the thread, it’s apparent that it often focuses on the first object described—in this case, the various Trump family members—with everything around it often having more flaws,” Higgins said over email. Look outside of the image’s focal point. Does the rest of the image appear to be an afterthought?
Even though the newest versions of AI-image tools, like Midjourney (version 5 of which was used for the aforementioned thread) and Stable Diffusion, are making considerable progress, mistakes in the smaller details remain a common sign of fake images. As AI art grows in popularity, many artists point out that the algorithms still struggle to replicate the human body in a consistent, natural manner.
Looking at the AI images of Trump from the Twitter thread, the face looks fairly convincing in many of the posts, as do the hands, but his body proportions may look contorted or melted into a nearby police officer. Even though it’s obvious now, it’s possible that the algorithm might be able to avoid peculiar-looking body parts with more training and refinement.
Need another tell? Look for odd writing on the walls, clothing, or other visible items. Higgins points toward messy text as a way to differentiate fake images from real photos. For example, the police wear badges, hats, and other documents that appear to have lettering, at first glance, in the fake images of officers arresting Trump. Upon closer inspection, the words are nonsensical.
An additional way you can sometimes tell an image is generated by AI is by noticing over-the-top facial expressions. “I’ve also noticed that if you ask for expressions, Midjourney tends to render them in an exaggerated way, with skin creases from things like smiling being very pronounced,” Higgins said. The pained expression on Melania Trump’s face looks more like a re-creation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream or a still from some unreleased A24 horror movie than a snapshot from a human photographer.