Facebook announced on the 20th of December 2019 that it terminated over nine hundred accounts that the company flagged as fake. The accounts spanned both Facebook’s social media site and Instagram. Sources say that the accounts were involved in pushing political messages to over fifty-five million individuals across both social media sites. From reports, the profiles were developed using AI to craft the profile pics using existing pictures of individuals online, and blending them to make a believable face.
First Large-Scale Deployment on Social Media
While the ability of AI to generate entirely new faces from existing pictures has been known, this is the first recorded attempt of the system being used to manipulate a social media site. The images were used to enhance profiles that belonged to a group known as the BL. Facebook’s investigation linked the BL to a conservative news outlet named The Epoch Times, with ties to the Chinese spiritual denomination Falun Gong and a known history of fundamentalist support for sitting President Donald Trump.
Widespread Fake Accounts Used to Spread Misinformation
Investigators claim that the BL utilized the accounts to evade detection from Facebook while funneling users into its own websites. Research groups Graphika and DFR Labs noted that the fake profiles were used to run and maintain over eighty pro-Trump groups on social media. The accounts were operated by users in both the US and Vietnam.
Both research groups further noticed that the profile pictures in these accounts were generated by a trained neural network that incorporated as much as eighteen pictures of other people’s faces into a single composite image. However, despite the ability of the neural network to generate faces, it’s not perfect. Researchers were able to spot discrepancies in the photos that clued them in to what they were witnessing. With the shadow of Cambridge Analytica still hanging heavy over US politics, situations like these should raise red flags for the American public since the 2020 presidential election is on the horizon.