Since the attack carried out on Israel by Hamas on October 7, the internet has been flooded with thousands of images of the conflict and even more rumours. However, many of the videos and photos circulating are actually false. Two of these images recently went viral. The first image supposedly shows a camp for Israeli refugees illegally constructed in Palestinian territory. The second is said to show a Palestinian flag being held aloft by football fans. In reality, both of the images were generated by AI.
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- The first image shows what looks like a displaced persons camp for Israelis with tents in the colours of the Israeli flag. According to the social media accounts that circulated the image, it shows a camp for Israeli refugees illegally constructed in the Palestinian Territories.
- A second image seems to show fans of the Spanish football club Atletico Madrid carrying a giant Palestinian flag during a football match.
- However, our team contacted two experts in image analysis, who confirmed that these two pictures were actually generated by artificial intelligence.
The fact check, in detail
The image shows dozens of blue and white tents, the colour of the Israeli flag, set up on a beach. The people who shared this image claimed that it was the first camp for displaced Israelis. They also claimed that the camp was illegally built in the Palestinian territories.
The image was shared on X (formerly Twitter) with a caption in Arabic on October 22.
No Israeli refugee camp has been built in the Palestinian Territories
Our team spoke to Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a specialist in digital images and the detection of doctored images, about the image of the Israeli refugee camp.
“Our models – trained to distinguish real from AI-generated images – reveal these images to be, with a high-degree of certainty, AI generated,” he said.
Denis Teyssou, the head of French news agency Agence France Presse’s Medialab, agreed. Teyssou also serves as the head of innovation at vera.ai, a project dedicated to detecting AI-generated images.
When the photo of the alleged refugee camp was uploaded to vera.ai, it concluded that this image was generated by artificial intelligence – more specifically that it was created using a “diffusion model” algorithm. This is the algorithm used by software like Midjourney to generate images through artificial intelligence.
Vera.ai is able to detect images generated by artificial intelligence with about 77% accuracy.
“This rate can be attributed to modifications [of the original image] like resampling, which is changing the amount of pixels in an image, cropping an image. These are both factors that reduce the reliability of the detector,” Teyssou said.
There have been no reports about the existence of a camp for displaced Israelis or even a mass movement of displaced persons in Israel since the attacks on October 7. A number of American citizens were able to evacuate to Cyprus.
No, Atletico Madrid fans didn’t brandish a giant Palestinian flag
The second image seems to show fans of the Spanish football team Atletico Madrid carrying a giant Palestinian flag, which covers one part of a stadium where a football game seems to be going on.
“Supporters of Atletico Madrid support Palestine,” reads this caption posted on October 19 and viewed 1.8 million times on X.
The first clue about the image comes from the dates. Atletico only played one game between October 7 – the day that Hamas carried out a bloody attack on Israel – and the day that the image was posted. That one game was played during the day on October 8. However, the image shows a stadium at night, lit up by artificial lighting.
Moreover, if you look at the image, you’ll see that the arms of a number of the supporters appear deformed – which is a typical issue with AI-generated images.
UC Berkeley Professor Farid also analysed this image and determined that it was also generated by artificial intelligence.
When we ran the image through vera.ai, it concluded that the image was generated by artificial intelligence, with 99% certainty.
So far, the tool hasn’t produced any false positives, said Teyssou, which indicates a high degree of reliability.
Finally, Juan Jose Anaut, Atletico Madrid’s deputy director for communications and marketing, told news agency Reuters that the image of the flag wasn’t authentic.
An information war over images generated by AI
These two photos, shared by pro-Palestinian accounts, were generated by artificial intelligence in order to raise support for the Palestinian cause and discredit Israeli authorities.
The information war is raging alongside the war between Israel and Hamas. Recently, pro-Palestinian accounts claimed that the Israeli government had shared AI-generated images of burned children. It turned out, however, that these images were real.
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