Trace the Information: Did an 80-year-old woman really crochet these giant cats?
SKILL: Trace the Information
SUBJECT(S): Pop Culture, AI
Students use a reverse image search and a keyword search to learn that this story about an 80-year-old grandmother crocheting these enormous cats is AI generated fiction.
There are now numerous artificial intelligence (AI) programs online, such as Midjourney, that people can use to create images that look shockingly photorealistic. The AI program is trained on a data-set of thousands of images and uses it to produce new images. The person using the AI art generator can use text to describe what image they want the AI to produce.
Crochet is a method of creating textiles by weaving yarn or other fibers with a hook. People use crochet to create a variety of clothing and other textile art.
About the Example
This viral Facebook post is captioned “an 80-year-old grandmother and her crochet finished product.” It includes a series of images that depict an old woman with giant crocheted cats. To learn more about this story we can use a reverse image or keyword search to trace the images closer to their original source.
Due to the virality of this image on social media, a reverse-image search brings up many instances of the image on social media, some that credit the original creator, but many that do not. In this case, a keyword search (“giant crochet cats”) is the quickest way to find more information about the images.
The Snopes article goes on to highlight parts of the images that give away that they were AI generated. While the limitations of AI are interesting to see, not only is AI technology rapidly improving, but many were fooled by these images even with these signs present. For this reason, lateral reading is an essential strategy to help us verify the images we see and share online.
- Show students the Facebook post, and have them summarize the claim.
- Have students conduct a reverse image search on one of the photos to try trace it closer to its original source using the following steps:
- Right-click on the image and select “Search Google for this image.”
- Select “Find image source.”
- Explain to students that due to the virality of these images, a reverse-image search overwhelmingly brings up instances where they have been re-shared on social media out of context. Have students conduct a keyword search (“giant cat crochet”) to see if higher quality sources have reported on this story and can tell them more about the origin of these images.
- Have students click the Snopes fact check of this claim. Guiding questions:
- Are these images authentic or not? What did you learn from the Snopes fact check to make your decision?
- The creator of the images, Lydia Masterova, originally posted them on her Instagram account, without a caption or hashtag to indicate they were AI generated. Why do you think she may have done this?
- What might be the consequences of sharing AI-generated images out of context?
- Snopes explains the various visual indications that the images were generated by AI. What were some of the tells? With these in mind, why do you think so many people on the internet still believed that these images were authentic photographs?