GAZA WARFact Check: AI Fakes in Israel's War Against Hamas

By Ines Eisele and Uta Steinwehr

Published 11 November 2023

Real or fake? Images generated by artificial intelligence have become a disinformation tool in the war between Israel and Hamas. DW’s fact-checking team shows you how to spot them.

How do fake stories created with artificial intelligence (AI) work? What narratives do they present? And how dangerous are they?

DW fact checkers answer the most critical questions about the role of AI in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

1) How do AI-generated image fakes work?
AI is everywhere these days — even in wars. Artificial intelligence applications have greatly improved this year, and almost anyone can now use standard AI generators to create images that look real, at least at first glance.

Users must “feed” tools such as Midjourney or Dall-E with prompts, including specifications and information, to do this. The tools then convert the written prompts into images. 

Some create more artistic illustrations, while others create photorealistic images. The generation process is based on what is known as machine learning. 

For example, if generators are asked to show a 70-year-old man riding a bicycle, they search their database to pair the terms with images. 

Based on the information available, the AI generators create the image of the older cyclist. Thanks to more and more input and technical updates, the tools have improved vastly and are constantly learning.

All this applies to images related to the Middle East conflict. 

Here, too, people use such tools to create more or less realistic scenes that, according to our observations, are often intended to capture emotional moments to spread certain narratives. But more on that later.

In a conflict where “emotions are very, very high,” says AI expert Hany Farid, disinformation, including its spread through AI images, works exceptionally well. 

Hardened fronts are the perfect breeding ground for creating and disseminating fake content and intensifying emotions, Farid, a professor of digital forensics at the University of California at Berkeley, tells DW.

2) How many AI images of the Israel-Hamas war are in circulation? 
Images and videos created with the help of artificial intelligence have already added to disinformation related to the war in Ukraine — and continue to do so. 

As AI tools have developed rapidly since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, many observers expected it to play an even greater role in the Israel-Hamas war. However, according to experts, the great flood of AI images has failed to materialize thus far.

In the conflict between Israel and Hamas and related disinformation, we are not seeing a massive use of AI-generated images,” says Tomasso Canetta from the European Digital Media Observatory.