How to identify AI-generated images

Here are 5 quick ways to identify AI-generated images

4 Mins Read

PUREVPNAwarenessHere are 5 quick ways to identify AI-generated images

Remember that picture of Pope Francis wearing a white puffer jacket that went viral earlier this year? The image spread like wildfire on Twitter and Reddit, though it was quickly revealed to be a hoax. As it turned out, the papal wardrobe had not been updated by Balenciaga. Instead, it was one of the many hyper-realistic AI-generated images that fooled countless people on social media in recent months.

Tumblr and other micro-blogging sites are filled with AI art and photos ranging from spellbinding landscapes to explicit imagery featuring celebrities. What’s alarming is that most of these AI-generated images look so realistic that you might mistake them for the real deal.

Since we have already talked about generative AI and copyright infringement, it’s time to discuss tips on how to tell if someone has used a free AI image generator to create the photo you’re looking at.

What are AI-generated images?

AI-generated images are pictures created or altered by artificial intelligence algorithms instead of, well, humans. These images can range from entirely computer-generated scenes to manipulated photographs that are almost indistinguishable from reality. They’re generated using complex algorithms and deep learning techniques that allow machines to understand and replicate visual information.

For example, popular AI-powered tools like Midjourney and NightCafe can create highly convincing AI-generated images from text. There are also many other AI image generators that can create hyper-realistic portraits of people who don’t even exist in real life by merely using textual prompts. 

Potential misuse of AI-generated images

While AI image generation is nothing short of astonishing, it also has the potential to be used for malicious purposes. For starters, AI-generated images from text can be weaponized for propaganda, with bad actors creating false or misleading images to manipulate public opinion. 

Similarly, deepfake technology, a subset of AI-generated images, can superimpose a person’s likeness onto a video, making it appear as if they are saying or doing things they never actually did. This can be used to create damaging and false narratives about individuals, potentially causing significant harm to their reputations and personal lives. 

In fact, earlier this year, the FBI issued a bulletin asking people to be careful while posting their photos and videos online as someone can potentially use them to fabricate sexual imagery. Law enforcement officials also reported an increase in the instances of criminals using AI-generated images to blackmail victims by demanding gift cards, cash, and even real explicit content.

Read more: How to support and protect yourself from AI manipulation

5 tips to identify AI-generated images

Here are some easy ways you can figure out if a photo has been created by an AI image generator.

1. Look for odd little details

First things first, keep an eye out for anything that seems a bit off. As perfect as they might appear, AI-generated images sometimes leave behind little clues that give away their digital origins.

For instance, they usually don’t get the shadows right. If the shadow of a person or an object appears strange or does not quite line up with the light source, that’s a good sign you might be looking at an AI-generated photo. Furthermore, you might notice odd, out-of-place patterns or shapes that just don’t quite fit the scene. These quirks can be like breadcrumbs leading you to the fact that a machine had a hand in creating the image.

2. Check for consistency

In the real world, things tend to follow certain rules. Shadows fall a certain way, reflections show up where you expect them, and objects maintain their perspective. However, AI-generated images from text can sometimes struggle to get these details just right.

Imagine looking at a photo where the shadows seem to have a mind of their own or a mirror that doesn’t quite reflect things properly. These inconsistencies can tell you that you might be looking at an AI-generated image.

3. Consider complexity and detail

Real-life objects have this incredible level of detail and texture that can be pretty tricky for AI to replicate perfectly. 

Take a forest scene for instance. Even something as small as a leaf on a tree has ample details. In a real picture, you may find the texture so realistic you could almost reach out and touch it. However, if the image is missing that fine-grained, intricate detail you’d expect in a genuine photo, it’s a good hint that you might be in the realm of AI art.

In simpler words, if you’re staring at an image and it feels like it’s missing that “je ne sais quoi,” you might want to investigate it in detail.

4. Evaluate unlikely combinations

AI tools have this knack for creating dreamlike scenarios that would make even Salvador Dali do a double-take. For example, AI art can show unicorns strolling through city streets or elephants taking to the skies. In real life, these scenarios are a no-go, but in the world of AI, anything is possible.

So, if you’re looking at an image and your brain is going, “Wait, that’s not quite right,” it’s probably because AI is at play, mixing things up in wonderfully strange ways.

5. Use deepfake detection tools

Available easily online, deepfake detection tools are designed to play detective with AI-generated images. They analyze all sorts of small details to help you spot the fingerprints of AI in the visual world. If you’re ever in doubt and the stakes are high, these high-tech tools can do all the heavy lifting for you. 

It is important to note that while these AI detection tools can be a powerful tool to combat the growing threat of realistic-looking fake content, they are not always 100% accurate. Therefore, it is crucial to take a closer look at suspicious images even if these AI detectors fail to figure out the truth.

On a final note

Being able to spot AI-generated images is incredibly important in today’s digital world. As technology advances, so does the ability of AI to create realistic-looking content, blurring the lines between reality and simulation. It’s crucial to distinguish between authentic and fabricated visuals to protect against misinformation, deepfakes, and potential harm. 

However, this task is becoming increasingly challenging. AI algorithms have evolved to produce images that mimic reality with incredible precision, making it harder for the human eye to determine their authenticity. Therefore, it is more important than ever to follow the tips above to protect yourself from falling for hoaxes and scams.

Interested to learn more about the latest trends in the world of AI? Stay connected to PureVPN Blog – your best source for cybersecurity news and updates. You can also share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

Read more: How to protect your enterprise from the dangers of AI hallucinations

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