A series of AI-generated images falsely portraying Paris submerged under heaps of garbage has gone viral. The pictures were shared through a TikTok video that has garnered an astonishing 450,000 views. These images depict iconic Parisian landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Arc de Triomphe, all overshadowed by towering piles of trash.
Accompanying the images is a Thai-language text sticker conveying the message, “This is what the French capital city, Paris, looks like. The dream city… now turned into this in reality.” The caption adds, “The government invested money in war,” alluding to the aftermath of civil unrest triggered by a police shooting incident involving a 17-year-old boy during a routine traffic stop in July.
Many individuals, misled by the compelling visuals, have fallen under the belief that the images portray genuine scenes. One comment asserts, “This is what happens when people riot!” while another laments, “This is the dark age of the developed countries. Thailand is better off developing itself gradually. I’m proud to be Thai.”
AFP Fact Check investigated to trace the origins of these images. Their findings revealed that the images had originated from the Facebook page of an artist named Nik Art. Nik Art had uploaded ten images, all captioned with the phrase, “Paris, the city of love.”
In a conversation with AFP, Nik Art disclosed that he had used Midjourney to create these images. Browsing the Facebook feed, many other sets of fake AI-generated ‘photojournalistic’ images depict made-up events. The most amusing are Colombia’s Cocaine Festival, Amsterdam Marijuana Festival, and 2023’s World Chilli Eating Festival.
In the feed, Nik Art posts to his followers to “Comment any crazy idea, and I’ll convert it to a picture,” with hundreds of ideas suggested. This AI artist has a sense of humour and isn’t doing anything wrong here.
Unfortunately, this highlights how easily AI-photo-realistic images can be misconstrued to tie into current affairs and news stories, further twisting the truth. In general, we must become much more skilled at spotting AI-generated images. AFP Fact Check has even issued guidelines on spotting AI-generated images.
Despite restrictions, researchers have found that it is still possible to use AI-image generators to create politically subversive images with easy loopholes.
I was in Paris in July, one week after the protests. I can assure you that there were no piles of rubbish in the streets. And the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Sacre Coeur look nothing like these pictures!