Google shares tools to spot misleading AI-generated images

16 May 2023

Image: © fabioderby/

Meanwhile, The Irish Times recently apologised for publishing a controversial opinion piece that is believed to have been an AI-generated hoax.

Google is releasing new ways for users to spot misleading or AI-generated images, in a bid to tackle misinformation and give users “the full story”.

The feature is called ‘About this image’ and will let users see contextual information about an image, such as when it was first indexed by Google and where else it has been seen online, for example on news or fact checking sites.

Google said the purpose is to help users decide if an image they spot is reliable or if the image may be misleading.

For example, if an image claims to be from a historical event, this tool would show if the image only recently appeared on Google or if news sites have debunked certain claims.

This feature will first launch in the US and will let users see more information on Google Image searches, Google Lens screenshots and images on the Google App. The tech giant plans to bring the feature to Google Chrome later this year.

Google product manager Cory Dunton said the company is also taking steps to make it easier for users to detect AI-generated images, which have exploded in popularity over the past year.

“As we begin to roll out generative image capabilities, we will ensure that every one of our AI-generated images has a markup in the original file to give you context if you come across it outside of our platforms,” Dunton said in a blog post.

“Creators and publishers will be able to add similar markups, so you’ll be able to see a label in images in Google Search, marking them as AI-generated. You can expect to see these from several publishers including Midjourney, Shutterstock and others in the coming months.”

The Irish Times hoax

The focus on misleading and AI-generated images follows a wave of realistic fake images being released of real-life figures in recent months, such as Pope Francis or former US president Donald Trump.

Concerns about the spread of misinformation through AI have been raised by critics of the technology, such as Geoffrey Hinton, the “Godfather of AI”. Hinton said his immediate concern with AI is that fake content will flood the internet and that the average person will “not be able to know what is true anymore”.

The risk of false information spreading thanks to AI was recently highlighted in Ireland, when The Irish Times released an opinion piece by Adriana Acosta Cortez. The article claimed the writer is an Ecuadorian woman and that Irish women using fake tan was “cultural appropriation”.

Readers and journalists raised questions about the author’s identity as the author’s image appeared to be AI-generated. There is also almost no information about the author available online and it is now believed that the article was an AI-generated hoax.

The Irish Times has since taken the article down and issued an apology. Prof Jane Suiter, the director of Dublin City University’s Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society, told that the hoax article is “an expensive but good lesson for the whole sector”.

Suiter added that it demonstrates “the dangers news organisations now face in an era of generative AI”.

“News organisations may have to return to older methods of speaking in person to contributors, running full checks on social media identities particularly for new contributors and perhaps investing in AI detection software although it is by no means fool proof,” Suiter said. “Not to do so risks reputational damage.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic