Images generated by artificial intelligence (AI) have the power to deceive and that’s exactly what happened recently when a series of “photos” pertaining to show Paris covered in trash went viral.
The AI images emanated from a TikTok video that has received over 450,000 views. The pictures show junk piled high in front of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Arc de Triomphe.
A Thai-language text sticker reads: “This is what the French capital city, Paris, looks like. The dream city… now turned into this in reality.” While the caption reads “The government invested money in war.” This is an apparent nod to the violence that broke out across France in the wake of a police shooting of a 17-year-old boy during a traffic stop.
According to the AFP Fact Check website, many people believe the images to be real.
“This is what happens when people riot!” reads one. While another says: “This is the dark age of the developed countries. Thailand is better off developing itself gradually. I’m proud to be Thai.”
Telltale Signs of an AI Image
While the images at first glance seem convincing, closer inspection shows morphed faces, missing hands, and out-of-proportion bodies.
AFP tracked the images down to an artist’s Facebook page called Nik Art who posted 10 images with the caption: “Paris, the city of love.”
Nik Art tells AFP that he used Midjourney to make the images and even shared the text prompts he used to generate them with.
“Group of turists [sic] walking in Paris street during demonstration with lot of garbage on the street, garbage in street, eiffel tower in background, police everywhere,” reads the prompt.
Interestingly, there are no police in the image but plenty of trash. This is due to the random nature of AI image generators, making it difficult for users to get all the elements they want in a picture.
Playing on Real-World Events
Although the TikTok video referenced the French riots a few weeks ago, piles of rubbish were in fact piling up on the Parisian streets after garbage collectors went on a three-week strike in March.
For more than a week now, trash has been piling up as garbage workers in Paris and other French cities have been on strike, protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the age when most workers begin collecting a government pension to 64, from 62. https://t.co/WXAPZBaV5Z pic.twitter.com/PZ4u2gCnu2
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 15, 2023
It is yet another example of AI images blurring the lines between reality and fiction. It’s a conundrum that is so bad one photographer was disqualified from a photo contest for entering an AI image when in reality it was a genuine photo taken on her iPhone.
Recently, PetaPixel revealed that AI Has Taken One Year to Produce as Many Images as Photographers Did in 150 Years.