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Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been incarcerated in a prison near London since 2019. In this context, the Russian Embassy in Kenya shared on Twitter on April 6 an alleged photo of the whistleblower where he appears very weakened. But the image is not real because it was generated by artificial intelligence, as confirmed by its author.
Verification in a nutshell
- An image of Julian Assange in prison is shared by the Russian Embassy in Kenya to criticize the treatment meted out to him.
- Visual inconsistencies in the image cast doubt on the authenticity of the image.
- The fake photo was created using AI by a Twitter account supporting the WikiLeaks founder to draw attention to his conditions of detention.
The details of the check
“13 years ago, Julian Assange released a video showing US forces shooting Iraqi civilians, including children, for no reason. Currently, he faces up to 175 years in prison for this”, writing the Russian Embassy in Kenya on Twitter on April 6. The post, which contains an image purporting to show Julian Assange in prison with his face bruised and his eyes closed, reaches over 440 000 views.
In the comments, users express their dismay that the founder of WikiLeaks is being held in such conditions.
The same picture was shared from March 31 in French, accumulating more than 189 000 views.
Julian Assange is being prosecuted in the United States for having published from 2010 confidential documents on the American army, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Arrested in England in 2019 after taking refuge for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he is now detained in a prison in Belmarsh, in the suburbs of the English capital.
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty Internationaland media have regularly called on the US government to drop the charges against him.
Visual clues to identify AI
While there is currently no tool capable of identifying with certainty an image generated by artificial intelligence, it is possible to spot visual inconsistencies in the alleged photos.
Certain details, including the fuzzy aspect of the right ear (in red), the irregular side of the squares in the background (in blue), the strange aspect of his eyelids (in white), are visual clues which may cast doubt on the reality of the image.
But above all, a watermark indicating “photo property of ‘E'” – “property of ‘E'”, in English – covers the photo.
False information generated by artificial intelligence
A reverse image search (see here how to proceed) finds the first occurrence of the image. A Twitter account of a surfer named “The Errant Friend”published March 30.
The account, which claims to be a supporter of the WikiLeaks founder, regularly posts AI-generated images, such as this photo of Donald Trump who seems to be praying, and of which he claims to be the author.
In his Telegram channel, “The Errant Friend” (“E”) confirmed that he is the author of the image of Julian Assange.
“Julian has been effectively removed from the public eye since his arrest and, as part of the intelligence community’s plans, he has been legally barred from appearing, including at his own trials. I have sought to make his documented suffering, and I succeeded”, he says in a message from 1er april.
Contacted byAFPhe explained that he used the version 5 of Midjourney, a program generating images by artificial intelligence, a version also confirmed by the support committee “Don’t extradite Assange”.
“The Errant Friend” had also sharedother pictures of Julian Assange generated by artificial intelligence.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian embassies have regularly shared false information with the aim of discrediting the Ukrainian and Western authorities, as this intoxication targeting Ukrainian refugees, those fake anti-Ukraine ads or these false claims on the bombardment of a Ukrainian shopping center by Russian forces.
The image of Julian Assange in prison is, in this context, the first artificial image used by a Russian embassy for the purposes of disinformation and spotted by the editorial staff of the Observateurs de France 24.
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