A major political party in the United States used generated imagery in a campaign ad.
What’s new: The Republican Party released a video entirely made up of AI-generated images. The production, which attacks incumbent U.S. president Joe Biden — who leads the rival Democratic Party — marks the arrival of image generation in mainstream U.S. politics.
Fake news: The ad depicts hypothetical events that purportedly might occur if Biden were to win re-election in 2024. Voice actors read fictional news reports behind a parade of images that depict a military strike on Taipei due to worsening relations between the U.S. and China, boarded-up windows caused by economic collapse, a flood of immigrants crossing the southern border, and armed soldiers occupying San Francisco amid a spike in crime.
- The images display “Built entirely with AI imagery” in tiny type in the upper left-hand corner.
- An anonymous source familiar with the production told Vice that a generative model produced the images and human writers penned its script.
Behind the news: Generative AI previously infiltrated politics in other parts of the world.
- In 2022, both major candidates in South Korea’s presidential election created AI-generated likenesses of themselves answering voters’ questions.
- In 2020, in a regional election, an Indian political party altered a video of its candidate so his lips would match recordings of the speech translated into other languages.
- In 2019, a video of Gabon’s president Ali Bongo delivering a speech triggered a failed coup attempt after rumors spread that the video was deepfaked.
Why it matters: Political campaigns are on the lookout for ways to get more bang for their buck, and using text-to-image generators may be irresistible. In this case, the producers used fake — but realistic — imagery to stand in for reality. Despite the small-type disclaimer, the images make a visceral impression that fictional events are real, subverting the electorate's reliance on an accurate view of reality to decide which candidates to support. The power of such propaganda is likely to grow as generative video improves.
We’re thinking: This use of generated images as propaganda isn’t limited to political jockeying. Amnesty International recently tweeted — and sensibly deleted — a stirring image of a protester detained by Colombian police bearing the fine print, “Illustrations produced by artificial intelligence.” Organizations that seek to inform their audiences about real-world conditions counteract their own interests when they illustrate those conditions using fake images.