Image of 'Taj Mahal being built' is AI generated

An AI-generated image of a scaffolded building has been repeatedly shared in social media posts that falsely claimed it showed India's iconic Taj Mahal during its construction in 1632. The Instagram user who first posted the picture said it was made with generative AI tool Midjourney.

"One of the seven wonders of the world is the Taj Mahal. This is a photo of the Taj Mahal during its construction in 1632," read a Bengali-language Facebook post from June 11, 2024.

The accompanying black-and-white image appears to show a structure similar to the iconic Indian landmark surrounded by scaffolding.

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum commissioned by the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, located on the Yamuna River in the northern Indian city of Agra (archived link).

Construction began around 1631 and the principal mausoleum at the Taj Complex was completed in 1648.

Screenshot of the false post, taken July 4, 2024.

The image was shared in similar Facebook posts here and here.

AI-generated picture

The picture features a watermark at the bottom which reads "Jyojohnmulloor".

A keyword search for this found an Instagram post from April 4, 2023, which showed the picture alongside several similar images of a domed structure under construction (archived link). 

The Instagram post read: "A glimpse into the past! Shah Jahan's incredible legacy, the Taj Mahal, captured during its construction. Grateful to have these rare photos and his permission letter to share with you all."

It also featured a disclaimer that the images were created with Midjourney, a tool that generates pictures using language prompts.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the picture shared in the false posts (left) and posted on Instagram (right):

Screenshot comparison of the picture shared in the false posts (left) and posted on Instagram (right)

The Instagram user's bio says that all "artworks" on the page were created with AI.

AI detection tool Hive Moderation also found the image likely contained AI-generated content.

Furthermore, construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631, nearly two centuries before the first camera was invented in the 1816 (archived link).

AFP has debunked other instances of AI-generated images being passed off as genuine here.

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