Election 2024

AI images of Trump with Black voters are just the latest in racist election misinformation

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Photo: Shutterstock

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has begun actively courting Black voters, a group that has traditionally voted Democrat.

Trump’s supporters have also begun courting this group by making dozens of artificial intelligence (AI) generated images of him surrounded by adoring Black people. Though some of the realistic-looking images contain the tell-tale signs of oddly rendered hands (showing missing, shortened, extra, and webbed fingers), the images illustrate just one of the many ways that AI-powered disinformation will seek to sway voter opinions.

One of the AI images currently circulating online was created by conservative radio show host Mark Kaye. Many online commenters believed his image was real, but Kaye said he didn’t believe the image should sway anyone’s vote.

“I’m not claiming it is accurate. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, look, Donald Trump was at this party with all of these African American voters. Look how much they love him!'” he told the BBC. “If anybody’s voting one way or another because of one photo they see on a Facebook page, that’s a problem with that person, not with the post itself.”

It hasn’t been possible to track down the source of every image, since AI-generated images rarely contain meta-data identifying the person and AI program that created them.

But Cliff Albright, co-founder of the campaign group Black Voters Matter, said the images are part of a longer history of Black voters being targeted with disinformation campaigns.

Other disinformation campaigns have told Black voting communities the incorrect dates, polling places, and voting methods for Election Day. Some have spread fake news and images via social media networks, chat applications, and robocalls claiming that polling places will take personal information to help police execute warrants, collect credit card debts, and force voters to take mandatory vaccinations, The Dallas Examiner explained.

While legislators and cybersecurity experts, like OpenAI’s gay CEO Sam Altman, have called for national legal frameworks to help prevent widespread fraud in the 2024 election, the federal government hasn’t passed any such safeguards. Each social media network’s disinformation policies differ and are selectively enforced, raising worries that these massively influential platforms are unprepared to deal with the coming wave of election disinformation.

This disinformation accompanies a wave of “election integrity” bills that have sought to restrict voter access to the ballot box by requiring multiple forms of ID, purging voters from state and local voting registries, reducing the number of polling locations, and ending early and mail-in voting.

Republicans seem most likely to benefit from the use of AI disinformation since their candidates have already demonstrated their willingness to incorporate it into their political ads.

Trump has already shared AI-generated “deepfake” videos mocking gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). During his presidential campaign, DeSantis released an ad that used fake AI images of Trump kissing federal COVID-19 task force expert Anthony Fauci.

In June 2013, AI-generated images surfaced of Trump and former President Barack Obama both separately kissing men in hotel rooms. Their creator, pro-LGBTQ+ satirist Justin T. Brown, said he generated images to demonstrate how AI technology can create political misinformation to affect future election outcomes.

Trump’s popularity among Black voters is rising, despite his racism

Trump himself has said that Black voters embrace him because of his criminal indictments and mugshot — suggesting that both he and Black people have been unfairly targeted by the judicial system. A recent USA Today poll found that 83% of Black voters see the criminal charges against Trump as “appropriate,” but the Republican party’s lure over Black voters may be increasing.

In 2016, Trump received the support of 8% of Black voters, according to exit polls. That support increased to 12% in 2020. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that 23% of Black voters support Trump.

However, Trump’s racism — his use of animal metaphors to attack Black opponents, his statement that “negotiation” over slavery could’ve prevented the U.S. Civil War, and his repeated claim that the nation’s first Black President Barack Obama was really an ineligible foreigner born in Africa — may continue to repel a majority of Black voters from his party.

“Black voters are very much concerned about the rise in white supremacy and racism and the degree to which the Republican Party continues to embrace bigots and white supremacists,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, according to The Hill. “They are erasing our history, they are taking away our rights, and they’re just on the wrong side of a whole bunch of things. And I think that Donald Trump is the embodiment of all of that unfortunately for them.”

Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, told the aforementioned publication that Black voters aren’t particularly swayed by Trump’s use of Black campaign surrogates, like his Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), because Black voters“don’t care about personalities.” Instead, they’re far more concerned about issues like inflation, the cost of living, jobs, the economy, gun violence, and health care, polls indicate.

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