AI-generated images of 'Paris painted purple' falsely shared ahead of Olympics

A series of AI-generated images of Paris streets painted purple with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the background has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts falsely claiming they showed the French capital ahead of the Olympics. The pictures were in fact first shared on Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu by a self-described digital artist, who said they were made using artificial intelligence.

"This is Paris. The atmosphere of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games has filled the city," read a simplified Chinese Facebook post shared on June 26, 2024.

The post -- shared more than 1,300 times -- included pictures that appeared to show the banks of the Seine near the Eiffel Tower in Paris painted to look like a purple athletic track.

The images feature a watermark with a username that appears to be taken from the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu.

Screenshot of the false post, taken July 2, 2024.

Instead of the traditional terracotta-coloured athletics track, the one at the Paris Olympics will sport two new shades of purple -- one for the competition areas and another for the technical areas. 

The two shades of purple will allow for maximum contrast when seen on television, highlighting the athletes, said former decathlete Alain Blondel, the head of athletics and para-athletics events at the Paris Olympics.

The images appearing to show the French capital decorated in purple circulated in similar Facebook posts here and here.

AI-generated images

A keyword search on Xiaohongshu using the watermark seen on the images found they correspond to pictures in a post from June 27, 2024 by the user "Muse_note" (archived link).

The caption says the images show Paris ahead of the Olympics but features the disclaimer: "Created with AI".

AFP has previously debunked AI-generated images appearing to show a McDonald's restaurant inside Egypt's pyramids that were created by the same user and subsequently spread online as real photos.

Below are screenshot comparisons of the images in the false post (left) and shared on Xiaohongshu (right):

Screenshot comparisons of the images in the false post (left) and the ones shared on Xiaohongshu (right)

The user responded to comments on the post questioning if the images were real, saying "It is AI".

Visual elements in the images also indicate they were made with AI, such as a woman's baseball cap with two visors and uneven lines that blur together on the "race track".

Furthermore, the AI-generated images feature buildings and structures that do not correspond to Google Earth satellite images of the city, such as a wall and a building with two spires. The curve of the river bank is also not accurate.

Comparison between the AI-generated images and satellite images on Google Earth

AFP has fact-checked more misinformation about the Paris Olympics here.

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