An AI-driven robot spewing lies to a crowd.
All hail the lie machine. The lie machine talks!

AI is about to take misinformation to a new level

AI generated misinformation is going to be a nightmare to verify. Plus a big Google update, YouTube gets serious about podcasting and some rules for curation.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The laptop lie factories are here

Forget AI’s threat to our business models — or our jobs. It’s rapidly becoming the single most powerful tool for disinformation you can imagine. You quite genuine can’t believe your ears any more.

John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, one of the most successful and long-running Apple commentators, has been sent an AI-generated audio clip of Steve Jobs being, um, disparaging about him. It was done to prove a point about how effective the tech is — but it’s an uncanny and worryingly accurate reproduction.

Gruber goes on to point to a thread of tweets doing much the same:

Well now, that’s a problem, isn’t it? Recordings of people saying things are no longer proof that they said it, given how accurate these reproductions can be. And given that extensive voice samples are available for most public figures, this will just be too damn easy to do.

And the camera may not lie (often), but AI-generated photos certainly do. Over in the US, rumours are swirling of the imminent arrest of former president Trump. But why wait for the event to happen to get photos? As the Daily Dot reports, people have been hard at work using generative AI to create photos in advance:

Although that was done in jest, people quickly started sharing them as if they were real. And that's what can happen with no malice.

Let’s have a quick play at doing the British version, shall we? As Boris Johnson is in front of the privileges committee today, pleading to save his political career,  let’s play to the fantasies of some and visualise him getting arrested. I’m using Midjourney — and it won’t allow me to use “arrested” as a prompt.

Well, that’s good, I suppose, if slightly annoying for this exercise. Some basic guardrails are in place to stop really obvious misinformation. And it means the best I can manage initially is this, which looks like a pretty standard walk-about, just with excessive numbers of police:

A Midjourney-illustrated image of Boris Johnson with the police
Absolutely not Boris Johnson being arrested

So, how about the former PM in jail?

A Midjourney-generated image of Boris Johnson in jail
A surprisingly convincing image of Boris Johnson in jail via Midjourney

Ah, much better. And certainly fairly convincing at first glance. It's literally the work of three or four minutes to generate using my Midjourney account.

As Gruber put it:

Real recordings will be called fake and fake recordings will be leaked as purportedly real. I don’t think the general population is prepared for this, and I worry that news media organizations aren’t either.

That applies to images, too. And, I’m certain, video pretty soon. We weren’t exactly on the front foot in the war against disinformation before the advent of generative AI. Things are only going to get worse.

Google core update underway

Google has a major update rolling out right now, the first in six months. The September 2022 update was absolutely brutal for some major newspapers, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on your search traffic in the coming weeks.

There are no easy answers on what you need to “fix” if you are hit. Generally, the best advice is that you should look for the areas of your site have been hit, rather than rushing round after quick fixes that might make things worse. Then focus on producing better content on those topics, while optimising and improving the existing content within those sections that already has good search traffic.

Still a nerve-wracking time…

Google releases March 2023 broad core update
This is the first Google core update of 2023 and the first in more than six months. The rollout may take up to 2 weeks to complete.

That “C” word

No, not that one. Curation. It’s an important word, especially in this age of the newsletter boom. And CJ Chilvers has some interesting thoughts about how to do it well:

The C Word
“Curation” shouldn’t be a dirty word, but it is. In the last decade, it has come to mean slapped-together-links, or outright-stolen content, used to fill space and capture just enough attention to convert free onlookers into consumers. There’s a lot of truth behind that association. In fact, I’

YouTube’s new podcasting features

YouTube’s new podcasting features should be available to all by the end of the week. Here’s what they offer.

More specific information in this support document.

[via PodNews]


The USB stick threat

Flippin’ ‘eck:

An Ecuadorian television presenter was wounded after a bomb disguised as a USB stick exploded when he inserted it in his computer, after explosive devices were sent to journalists across the country.

A reminder from The Guardian that some journalists have it so much worse than the rest of us.

More on the TikTok threat

A little more context for yesterday's big think piece about post-TikTok social video.


Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.