Viral photo of wrestlers Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat smiling is manipulated

By: Chandan Borgohain
May 29 2023

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Viral photo of wrestlers Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat smiling is manipulated


The Verdict False

The viral image showing the wrestlers smiling after being detained by the Delhi police has been manipulated using an AI application.

Claim ID 95052b45

Several Indian wrestlers have been protesting against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President and Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) leader Brijbhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing at least seven women wrestlers including a minor. On Sunday, the protesting wrestlers were detained when they tried to march to the newly inaugurated parliament building in New Delhi. According to The Indian Express, Delhi Police had filed FIRs against wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia after detaining them. The protesting wrestlers and their supporters had been camping in Jantar Mantar for several days to demand action against Singh. 

Amid these developments, which dominated headlines and the online discourse, a photo showing wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat smiling inside a bus is widely circulating on social media. Those sharing the photo claim that the wrestlers were seen smiling after being detained by the Delhi Police. “The smiles says Happily arrested by Delhi police , mission toolkit agenda accomplished,” wrote a user on Twitter. The image was tweeted with a similar claim by several users including journalist Abhijit Majumder. Blogpost platform Kreately, which has been called out for spreading disinformation several times in the past, also shared the photo.

In Fact
We performed a reverse image search and found a nearly identical photo of the detained wrestlers shared by journalist Mandeep Punia on Twitter. The caption, written in Hindi, reads: “Vinesh Phogat has also been taken into custody by Delhi Police.” The photo, shared hours before the viral image, however, doesn’t show Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat smiling.

Next, we compared the viral smiling image of Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat with their pictures uploaded on their social media profiles. We noticed Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat don’t have dimples as seen in the viral image. The teeth alignment is also near perfect for both of them which is not the case as seen from the photos they have shared themselves.

We also recreated the viral photo using an app called “FaceApp,” which is a photorealistic editing app available on Android and iOS devices. We tried using the “smiles” feature on the original picture and saw that it created identical results as seen in the viral image. This establishes that the viral image of the two wrestlers smiling was created using artificial intelligence and is not real.

As these images went viral, Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia took to Twitter and clarified that the viral images are “fake”. He also said that they will file a complaint against all those who will share these photographs.

The Verdict
The viral image showing the wrestlers smiling after being detained by the police was generated using an AI application. The original photo of the detained wrestlers was shared by journalist Mandeep Punia and it doesn’t show any of them smiling. Therefore, we mark this claim false.

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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