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Claim: Images circulating on social media show the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, on fire.
Why we fact-checked this: The TikTok video bearing the claim, posted on January 19, has gained 203.1 million views, 13.4 million likes, 392,300 bookmarks, and 157,000 shares from an account with 85,000 followers.
Claims that the iconic Paris landmark was burning have also spread on Filipino social media, with several users believing the incident to be real.
The bottom line: Using AI detectors, the images have been determined to be 97.42% machine-generated.
A closer inspection of the pictures reveals inconsistencies common in images generated by artificial intelligence. These include distorted details in the background and abnormal shapes in structures like windows.
Still standing: A live webcam feed of the Eiffel Tower shows the iconic structure still standing. There also have been no reports confirming the supposed incident from the Eiffel Tower’s official website, the French tourism portal, nor Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Other news organizations such as Reuters and AFP had earlier fact-checked similar fake images and videos. One such claim shows that the misleading video was likely created using visual effects and computer-generated imagery.
AI and disinformation: Media watchdogs have long sounded the alarm over the impact of artificial intelligence on the spread of disinformation at scale. AI-generated images and deepfakes have been used to misrepresent real events and spread propaganda. (READ: AI-enabled disinformation: Waging an unviable war of scale)
In an article by the New York Times, Gordon Crovitz, co-chief executive of NewsGuard, a company that tracks online misinformation, said, “Crafting a new false narrative can now be done at dramatic scale, and much more frequently – it’s like having AI agents contributing to disinformation.”
Rappler has already published several fact-checks on AI-generated disinformation:
- FACT CHECK: Ad uses AI-edited videos of Henry Omaga-Diaz, Doc Willie Ong
- FACT CHECK: Video report by TV anchors on ‘free’ necklace is fake, AI manipulated
- FACT CHECK: Video of Bella Hadid supporting Israel is AI-generated
– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com
Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.
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