‘Recent photo’ of Julian Assange was generated by AI

3 April 2023
What was claimed

A recent photo shows Julian Assange in prison

Our verdict

The image was created using AI.

An apparently new photograph of Julian Assange looking unwell in Belmarsh prison has been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

But, as many have pointed out, the image was created using AI.

It’s always worth checking whether content is real before you share it. We have written a guide on how to verify viral images which you can read here.

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How do we know?

There are some clues the image is not a genuine photograph.

Guillaume Brossard, co-founder of the French website Hoaxbuster pointed out that Mr Assange’s close allies, including his wife, are active on Twitter but had not shared the image.

Mr Brossard also noted that details in the hair, ear and unmatching sleeve colours of the image did not look realistic.

The image also has a prominent watermark saying “photo property of ‘E’”. Using Google to search for the image, the earliest instance of the image appearing online comes from a Twitter user posting it on 30 March. This user has previously referred to themselves as E in other seemingly AI-generated images.

German tabloid newspaper Bild interviewed the user, who told the publication he had made the photo of Julian Assange using Midjourney, an AI programme which allows people to generate images using prompts. 

Midjourney was also the app used to create fake images of the Pope wearing a puffer coat and former US President Donald Trump apparently being arrested that recently went viral. 

The Twitter user who created the image of Mr Assange told Bild: “My intention was to create an image based on the documented happenings around Julian.”

He added: “It was designed to evoke a visceral response and to accurately represent what the public could not otherwise bear witness to.”

Mr Assange was the founder of WikiLeaks and is currently being held in HMP Belmarsh in London after being removed from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had sought asylum for seven years. Last year he sought permission to appeal against a decision to extradite him to the United States over the publication of classified military documents. 

Image courtesy of Jonathan Kemper

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