AI-generated Donald Trump image spreads after guilty verdict

An image shared across social platforms appears to show police taking Donald Trump into custody after a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business records. But the former US president was wearing a different outfit as the verdict was delivered in his hush money trial and the picture spreading online appears to have been generated by artificial intelligence.

"GUILTY!" says a May 30, 2024 post on Instagram and Threads.

The post -- and similar ones  on Instagram and other platforms, such as X -- appears to show officers swarming and forcibly detaining Trump.

Screenshot from Instagram taken June 3, 2024

A New York jury on May 30 found the presumptive Republican nominee guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The unanimous and historic verdict makes him the first ex-president ever convicted of a crime, just months before the November 2024 presidential election that could return him to the White House.

But the image shared online bears several signs of fakery.

AFP observed that the hands grabbing Trump under each of his arms do not appear to belong to any particular officer, for example. They instead seem to be free-floating.

Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said there are "obvious visual cues" the image was created using AI, including that the officer to Trump's left is wearing two police badges on his shirt (archived here).

Siwei Lyu, director of the University of Buffalo's Media Forensic Lab, said other "telltale signs" of AI generation include the different badge shapes on the officers' hats and one officer's "unnatural eyes and nose details" (archived here).

Screenshot from Instagram taken June 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

Both experts also used specialized tools to analyze the image for AFP.

Farid said a model trained to distinguish between real and AI-generated images "confidently classifies this image as AI generated," while Lyu said his own detection analysis reached the same conclusion with a 78 percent probability.

AFP could not identify the origin of the picture, which reverse image searches did not surface on credible news websites. But there is no shortage of AI-generated content purporting to show law enforcement chasing, wrestling or handcuffing Trump.

AFP debunked several such images that spread in March 2023.

After the jury returned its verdict in his New York trial, the former president emerged from the courtroom, issued a statement for the waiting TV news cameras and freely entered a vehicle once outside, video footage shows (archived here and here).

He was also wearing a solid blue necktie -- not a striped pattern one as seen in the image circulating online.

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the press after he was convicted in his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024 (POOL / Seth Wenig)

Trump's sentencing has been set for July 11. He could face up to four years in prison on each of the 34 felony counts, but as a first-time offender such a sentence would be unexpected.

Trump faces far more serious charges in other cases in which he is accused of seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden and for the allege hoarding and refusal to return top-secret documents after leaving office.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about US politics here.

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