Can you spot the bot? Every image here is AI-generated, all robots pretending to be human, except for two Hollywood actors pretending to be robots. Who is more convincing? (image compiled by the author)

You know how it is — you want to screen for bots in your socials, but you don’t have time to run Voight-Kampff tests every time before hitting “add friend.” A new extension for Google Chrome has you covered! Developed by V7 Labs, this artificial intelligence (AI)-based software plugs in to your browser to detect bot profiles and pictures generated by so-called deepfake” technology. The company claims the plug-in is 99.28% accurate — an accomplishment that would be horribly substandard to robots, but is pretty impressive to humans.

“There’s a lot of misleading content on social media these days, and one of its propagators are fake profiles,” said Alberto Rizzoli, V7 Lab co-founder, in a video demonstrating the software. In the clip, he analyzes the validity of a random profile that attempted to connect with him on LinkedIn, using the browser extension to right-click on the profile image. At a glance, the profile image appears pretty convincing, though Rizzoli points out a few inconsistencies, including an oddly-placed earring and pupils that are not quite round; most people would probably approve the contact without a second thought. That’s all fun and games, until your new friend” starts trying to debunk vaccine science.

Rizzoli demonstrates how to use the browser extension in a video posted to Loom. (screen capture by the author)

Rizzoli says these profile images are often produced by random face generators, and many of them have similar characteristics that give them an uncanny, unconvincing appearance. But the generators are getting more and more sophisticated, so why not develop AI that can recognize fake people as quickly as AI can generate them? (Surely we are not better training the robots to know exactly who the humans are and where to aim their lasers, ha ha!)

Of course, being able to detect bots in your media is helpful, inasmuch as it can help curtail the spread of disinformation through platforms — a scourge that in recent years has meaningfully impacted global health, political elections, and the coverage of international conflicts.

“It is something that’s growing quite a lot, especially on Amazon,” Rizzoli told PetaPixel. “This is increasingly common and is very cheap to just create a fake persona. Perhaps it is part of a larger scheme.”

There’s one in every crowd. Commenters have lighthearted fun with the new browser extension. (screen capture by author)

If you’re anything like me, you assume everyone is a robot and try to be very polite to robo-callers, just to be on the safe side. But if you prefer half-measures rooted in tech solutions rather than delusional paranoia — hey, now there’s an app for that!

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...