A picture is worth a thousand words. The old saying, more than a truth, reflects a way of feeling reality. There are things that, no matter how much they are explained to us, we do not quite believe or do not fully understand until we see them with our own eyes. But almost a century ago Stalin decided that he could modify reality by removing the victims of his purges from photographs. More recently, programs like Photoshop have perfected the art of doctoring images, and social media has become the perfect platform for taking photos and videos out of context and giving hoaxes unprecedented reach.
The artificial intelligence revolution poses the latest challenge that threatens the boundaries between what is real and what is false. In addition to the already famous ChatGPT language model (capable of reasoning in a way that is often indistinguishable from that of a human), programs like Midjourney, praised until now for its graphic creativity, have evolved to be able to produce extremely realistic photographs with their algorithms. from a simple written request.
This week, users of this platform have created false snapshots of the arrest of Donald Trump (which has not yet taken place) or of Emmanuel Macron fleeing from a mob angry over the pension reform (also an unreal situation).
Francesc Bracero, a journalist for La Vanguardia specializing in technology, analyzed the phenomenon on Thursday in a column titled AI is (already) escaping us. Readers' comments on the digital version gave a sample of the impact they believe it can have on journalism.
"You are going to disappear," sentenced one. “Can the newspapers fool us with fake photos? I already figure that at least you, in La Vanguardia, don't. Journalism has a lot at stake because, if I don't trust it, I'll think about the subscription a lot”, pointed out another. "You only have to see the comments on social networks, to see how many people swallow and share seedy hoaxes, so with something much more elaborate I don't even want to think about it," said a third. On Twitter, a user responded to the newspaper's profile: “Take advantage of the opportunity and create a space to validate the photos that emerge. We need reliable validation sources.”
Indeed, as these readers point out, the value of the credibility and reliability of quality press acquires more relevance in this context than ever. It was like that when hoaxes and rumors were spread by word of mouth or in incendiary pamphlets and it must continue to be so now, when technological advances are capable of challenging what we see with our own eyes.