Palestinian flag colours were not displayed on the Cairo Tower

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook show an image of the Cairo Tower lit up with the colours of the Palestinian flag alongside a claim that the display is a show of solidarity following the recent Israeli-Palestinian fighting. The claim is false: the image has been online since 2010, 11 years before the latest surge in violence in the conflict. Furthermore, the image has been doctored to add the colours of the Palestinian flag.

On May 19, this Facebook post was shared with an image of the Cairo Tower glowing with what appears to be the flag of the Palestinian territories at dusk.

“Cairo Tower today is decorated with the flag of beloved Palestine. Long live Egypt, long live Palestine,” the post’s caption reads. The post has been shared more than 1,100 times since it was published on May 19, 2021.

A screenshot of false Facebook post, taken on May 31, 2021

The same claim was shared on Facebook (here, here and here) as well as Instagram (here and here). It also circulated in Portuguese (here and here) and Arabic.

AFP Fact Check debunked similar claims being shared in Spanish-speaking countries (see here and here).

But a reverse image search revealed that the image has been online since at least 2010, and also resurfaced in 2015, 2016 and 2019.

The oldest version that AFP Fact Check located is from an upload to Wikimedia Commons from February 3, 2010. The photo is credited to Ahmed Santos. Unlike the image in the false posts, this photo features a violet colour light, not the flag of the Palestinian territories.

Visual cues such as the crescent moon on the right side of the building and the shadowy trees near the bottom indicate that this is the same image as the one circulating on Facebook recently, edited to include the colours of the Palestinian flag.

A screenshot comparing picture of Cairo Tower in the misleading post (L) and the original picture captured in 2010 (R)

Evidence of digital manipulation

Using new forensic analysis filters from the International Fact-Checking Network's EnVisu4 project (which will be available in an upcoming version of InVID-WeVerify), AFP Fact Check compared the original image to the manipulated one. By applying filters, we were able to detect that the image with the colours of the Palestinian flag had been digitally altered.

First, applying the “GHOST” filter on the manipulated image revealed multiple layers of compression in the zone where the Palestinian flag appears, particularly the red triangle at the top. Compressions indicate that an image has been saved multiple times. 

Unlike the manipulated image, the original picture only has one layer of compression.

A screenshot showing the filter applied to the manipulated image (top L and R) and original image (bottom)

AFP Fact Check then applied another filter, called “DCT”, which revealed anomalies on the tower image featuring the colours of the Palestinian flag. In contrast, when the filter is applied to the original photo, the blue image indicates that the photo has not been altered. 

A screenshot showing results for the original image (L) and the manipulated image (R)

AFP Fact Check has debunked multiple examples of misinformation that have circulated following the latest unrest between Israel and the Palestinian territories, including here, here and here.

UPDATE 04/06/2021: Updated to include more forensics analysis
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Israeli-Palestinian conflict