Clip of 'gold bars in Philippine sea' bears signs of AI

A video that bore signs it was created using artificial intelligence has been viewed millions of times on Facebook alongside the false claim it shows gold bars at the bottom of the Philippine sea. The clip was originally posted by an Instagram account that regularly shares AI-generated content, and experts told AFP visual irregularities indicate it was not genuine.

"Gold bars in the Philippines sea," reads text overlaid on a Facebook reel shared on June 28, 2024 that appears to show gold bars and dilapidated vehicles under water.

The Philippine Sea lies to the east of the archipelago, while Manila refers to the waters to its immediate west in the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

In an apparent reference to rival claims between the Philippines and China to parts of the South China Sea, the clip's Tagalog-language voiceover asks: "That's why China is claiming the sea, no?"

The Facebook user who posted the clip later commented that it was "not true" and was made for "entertainment purposes only".

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on July 1, 2024

The clip was viewed over 5.2 million times and shared beside other Facebook videos here, here and here.

It was shared after a violent clash between Chinese and Filipino sailors in the South China Sea on June 17 -- the latest and most serious in a series of escalating confrontations as Beijing stepped up efforts to push its claims to nearly all of the strategically located waterway.

Chinese coast guard personnel wielding knives, sticks and an axe surrounded and boarded three Filipino navy boats, video showed, foiling what Manila said was a resupply mission to a small garrison of marines manning a grounded warship on Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines and China agreed on July 2 to "de-escalate tensions" over the South China Sea.

But AFP did not find any official reports of gold bars hidden in the Philippine Sea or the contested South China Sea waters

'AI generated'

A reverse image search on Google using keyframes from the video led to the same clip posted on Instagram by the user "lovenaturescenery" on May 19, 2024 (archived link).

The Instagram account's profile page indicates it shares "Photoshop and AI Generated scenery".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video used in the false post (left) and the Instagram clip (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the video used in the false post (left) and the Instagram clip (right)

Siwei Lyu, director of the Media Forensic Lab at the University of Buffalo, said irregularities in the size of the gold bars next to the truck hinted that the video was created with AI.

"These sizes do not add up, as the longer bar is at least equal or longer than the diameter of the truck's wheels," he told AFP on July 9.

Dominic Ligot, founder of non-profit Data Ethics PH, which looks at the ethical use of data and AI, also said the video was edited with AI.

"The background image was likely AI composite, while the bubbles and underwater effect were from creative video editing," he told AFP on July 8.

"No true underwater camera will look like this," he added.

The Instagram user also shared similar clips here and here that -- when viewed on mobile -- have an "AI info" label (archived links here and here).

Clicking on the label calls up an explainer that says: "Generative AI may have been used to create or edit content in this post."

It also says this can be added by the user who posts the content or Instagram.

Below are screenshots of a similar clip shared by the Instagram user, with the "AI info" label highlighted by AFP:

Screenshots of a similar clip shared by the Instagram user, with the "AI info" label highlighted by AFP

AFP has previously debunked misleadingly shared AI-generated videos here, here and here

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