Link Roundup 3/10/2024

On Monday, I read this BBC article, “Trump supporters target black voters with faked AI images“, which points out that misinformation like this is now being generated by people in the U.S. instead of outside actors like Russia or China. Something that really jumped out at me, though, was how real the fakes looked:

There’s some giveaways that this is fake: the weird glossy focus, the kind of sameness to the guys’ faces, the software’s inability to generate recognizable logos or designs on the t-shirt and baseball cap. But it is rendering hands okay! It’s doing way better than what was being produced less than a year-and-a-half ago:

Definitely not real people, certainly not a hand. Made in January 2023.

If Trump wasn’t in that top picture and I saw it as part of an article, or posted on social media, I don’t think that I’d pause to consider whether it was real or not. That’s something I worry about a lot, because I think that we’re at a point where the casual observer might not be able identify AI-generated images without scrutiny. The potential to create fake outrage bait to fuel narratives and advance agendas is pretty frightening to me. “CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Antifa member kicks puppy! You won’t believe this shocking thing that a homeless person did right in front of us! Cop shoots unarmed black mom in back! [I’m both-sidesing it, here]” If this sort of thing starts to become commonplace, then you have to start questioning every image that you see. We’ve always had image manipulation and fakes (see below), but as this technology improves it’s going to be harder to tell apart. Also, the more commonplace this becomes, the harder it will be to accept weird images that are actually real (also see below).

Deepfake, 1937 version.
Deepfake, 1993 version.
Nixon and Elvis. A real photo. I have a vague memory in the 1990s of people thinking that this was fake, but I don’t know how widespread that opinion was.
George Bush Sr. shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. A real photo.

Seven years ago I used to work around a team of software engineers from India, who on their lunch breaks would spend a lot of time sharing clearly Photoshopped images with each other, like the one below of the blue monkey. They’d pass the image around and say stuff like, “So beautiful!” and “Nature is amazing!” I never asked them about it, but I couldn’t tell if they knew the images were fake and were just enjoying them for what they were, or if their media literacy was poor enough that they thought they were looking at real photos. I still think about them and wonder about it.

A blue monkey is a real type of monkey but it doesn’t look like this Photoshopped image.

Anyway, here’s some more links to stuff I read this week, all picked from the Internet by these human hands:

Israel war links. I put these all in one place so you can skip them easier if you want to. Also, content warning on that second link: the article and my notes on it relate to sexual violence.

  • London Review of Books: “The Shoah after Gaza“. This article is, in part, about Israeli’s right-wing made the Holocaust the central point of their culture, and use it as a sort of shield against criticism of any of their actions. It’s a pretty dense read, but worth it.
  • NPR: “A U.N. report finds ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ attacks in Israel included rapes“. When 10/7 was happening, a lot of people on social media (including me) celebrated the breach of the walls of Gaza before learning about the horrors that would happen next. I’m guessing that a lot of Israelis and Jewish people saw that and understandably misunderstood that as people supporting Hamas. Anyway, once it became clear that this was an attack and not a breakout, it was easy to see from videos and pictures that horrific violence was going on. I saw one video of a hostage that showed, to me, pretty clear evidence of sexual assault. Shortly afterward, I read a post from some left-wing group I’d never heard of arguing that there was no indication of any Palestinians sexually assaulting people and that to suggest it was racist. In it they referenced the same video that I saw, suggesting that what was pretty clearly blood was just dirt instead. It was such a gross, obviously-wrong thing for them to claim. The most generous interpretation of their post was that they were blinded by their politics. When I hear people talking about antisemitism on the left, that’s the post that comes to mind.
  • Washington Post: “U.S. floods arms into Israel despite mounting alarm over war’s conduct“. I am too dumb to understand why we are advocating for a ceasefire and trying to deliver aid to Gaza while we are still giving bombs to Israel.

Portland & Oregon links

“I love this kind of shit, like, you guys… I… when I… I do not believe that I should be here in fucking cuffs right now. And so I will use this – 100 percent – to fucking… it’s absurd… I WAS NOT doing anything wrong. I was over here – th – FUCKING sitting on that bench. Right there! Like I can’t….. you get it, right?”

Table-Top Role-Playing Game links

  • D&D Beyond: “How to Write a D&D Campaign“. Some good baseline advice for creating campaigns for any role-playing game.
  • Gnome Stew: “HOW TO MAKE A PUBLISHED RPG SETTING YOUR OWN“. I was looking forward to reading this article, having lightly adapted “Descent Into Avernus” and “The Wild Beyond the Witchlight” to fit into my campaign world, but I found the article too generic to be useful. No offense to the author, but I had to check to see whether it was written by AI.

I’ll end this week’s post with a recommendation: I don’t normally read online comics, but this week I started reading “3rd Voice” and I’ve been enjoying it so far.

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