A viral image claiming to show Julian Assange in a U.K. prison is AI-generated

By: Annet Preethi Furtado
April 14 2023

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A viral image claiming to show Julian Assange in a U.K. prison is AI-generated


The Verdict False

An alleged leaked photo of Julian Assange in the U.K. prison has been created using the text-to-image feature of the Midjourney V5 AI software.

Claim ID b663af99


An AI-generated image of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has surfaced online, supposedly taken inside London's high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has been detained since 2019. The picture shows Assange with closed eyes, a patchy red complexion, long, unkempt hair, and a beard. His skin is slightly blurred, and he appears to be wearing a bib stained with yellow marks. The image bears a watermark reading "Property of 'E'."

Numerous accounts shared the photograph on social media platforms, alleging that the image demonstrated the detrimental impact of imprisonment on Assange's health. The Russian Embassy in Kenya shared the image in a tweet that has gathered over 720k views, stating, “13 years ago, Julian Assange released a video showing US Forces firing on Iraqi civilians, including children for no reason. Now he faces up to 175 years in prison for publishing it.”

In Fact

Using a reverse image search, we found that a Twitter user called ''The Errant Friend'' was the first to tweet the image on March 30, 2023, pleading for his immediate release. The user, also referred to as "E" on the internet, previously shared a similar image of Assange created using AI on March 17. The Errant Friend’s Twitter bio expresses support for Assange and regularly posts AI-generated images.

We discovered a Telegram channel where The Errant Friend discussed the viral image of Assange and offered some clarification. Logically Facts reached out to The Errant Friend, who identified themselves as a former central developer of the AssangeDAO and other Assange-related projects. They explained that they created the image "as a viral art project," calling it an "image based on the documented happenings" around Assange. "I used MidJourneys version 5, an AI image creator to carefully manufacture it, and then watermarked the photo for effect and so people understood where it came from. It was designed to evoke a visceral response and to accurately represent what the public could not otherwise bear witness to." They also provided Logically Facts with a screenshot showing the text prompt on Midjourney.

This viral image is not authentic, as many anomalies, such as the lack of fine details and variations in skin texture in the photograph, indicate the usage of an artificial intelligence (AI) tool. These discrepancies point to it being generated using an AI tool rather than captured by a camera.

Assange has been held in London's Belmarsh prison since his arrest in April 2019. He faces extradition to the U.S., where he has been charged with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. These charges stem from his involvement in publishing classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on WikiLeaks.

The Verdict

The widely circulated image of Assange appearing to be in a deteriorated condition in prison is not an authentic photograph but an artificially generated one, as confirmed to Logically Facts by its creator. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before