AI-generated images of Trump being arrested circulate on social media
CLAIM: Photos show former President Donald Trump being arrested by New York City law enforcement.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The images are fabricated and Trump has not been arrested. The person who created many of the images circulating on social media confirmed they were produced using Midjourney, an artificial intelligence text-to-image generator, and first posted as parody.
THE FACTS: As New York prosecutors wrap up their probe into whether Trump engaged in an illegal hush money scheme involving a porn actress, social media users shared AI-generated images depicting his arrest.
“#BREAKING : Donald J. Trump has been arrested in #Manhattan this morning!” states a tweet that featured the images.
The fabricated images show what looks like New York Police Department officers restraining Trump as he resists, and one image even depicts Trump running away from the officers. A closer look at the images shows garbled text on the police officers’ uniform, along with distorted faces and hands. One image shows Trump wearing a police belt.
The false posts feature several images created by Eliot Higgins, founder and creative director of investigative collective Bellingcat. Higgins shared the images on Twitter but noted in a thread that they were generated using Midjourney, a tool that uses generative AI to create images from a simple text prompt.
For several of the images, Higgins said he submitted the text prompt, “Donald Trump falling over while getting arrested. Fibonacci Spiral. News footage,” to generate the images.
Some social media users then circulated the images on other platforms without that context.
Midjourney recently launched the more advanced model, which has the ability to produce more photorealistic images, compared to previous models.
“The Trump arrest image was really just casually showing both how good and bad Midjourney was at rendering real scenes, like the first image has Trump with three legs and a police belt,” Higgins said in an email to The Associated Press. “I had assumed that people would realise Donald Trump has two legs, not three, but that appears not to have stopped some people passing them off as genuine, which highlights that lack of critical thinking skills in our educational system.”
Another widely-circulating fabricated image — depicting five officers holding Trump by the arms — was not created by Higgins, but also shows hallmarks of some AI-generated images, including distorted hands.
The NYPD further confirmed no such arrest happened.
“Donald Trump has not been taken into custody by the New York City Police Department,” the agency wrote in an emailed statement Tuesday.
Trump over the weekend claimed without evidence that he would be arrested on Tuesday, but the former president has not yet been indicted.
A Manhattan grand jury has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier. Trump has denied the encounter and any wrongdoing.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.