AI-generated photo of Julian Assange in prison


AI image of an ‘unwell’ Julian Assange sparks calls for his release

'This is what the United States and the West did to Julian Assange for reporting the truth.'


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Apr 3, 2023

An image purporting to show WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange physically unwell in London’s Belmarsh prison fooled countless people online despite being generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

Shared on Thursday by the Twitter user known as “The Errant Friend,” the image, which depicts a disheveled Assange with his eyes closed, gained widespread attention after spreading rapidly across social media.

Supporters of Assange cited the synthetic photo in countless tweets while arguing that the publisher should be released from custody. Assange has been imprisoned since 2019 and is currently facing extradition to the U.S. over espionage and other charges related to his work with WikiLeaks.

“Assange’s last photo leaked,” one user wrote. “Aren’t you ashamed, world? Cry, planet earth.”

Multiple tweets containing copies of the photo received several million views, highlighting just how much the fabricated image was seen online.

The AI-generated image also appeared to fool Simon Ateba, the White House correspondent for Today News Africa.

“Photo Leaked: This is what the United States and the West did to Julian Assange for reporting the truth,” he tweeted. “The same people lecturing about misinformation have been killing a whistleblower for telling the world the truth. Not for lying, not for spreading fake news but the truth!”

The original tweet containing the image at no point noted that it had been created with AI. A watermark that states “Photo Property of ‘E,'” a reference to The Errant Friend, is also visible.

Yet E, a pro-Trump user who frequently creates AI-generated images of the former president, later admitted in remarks to the Associated Press that he had not gained access to an exclusive image of Assange. Instead, he claimed, the depiction was created by the text-to-image generator tool Midjourney.

E further argued that the image was intended to showcase Assange’s “documented suffering in Belmarsh.” The Daily Dot reached out to E to inquire about the photo but did not receive a reply.

A fake image of Assange wearing an orange jumpsuit in prison also fooled an Australian journalist and the British rapper and singer M.I.A. last month. The photo, which was later deleted by both individuals, was likewise created by E.

Even with the fake images’ viral status, the official WikiLeaks account on Twitter has declined to comment on the matter. WikiLeaks did not respond to inquiries from the Daily Dot regarding the issue either.

E has repeatedly claimed involvement in several WikiLeaks-related projects such as the “Don’t Extradite Assange” campaign. It remains unclear what ties, if any, E has to WikiLeaks itself.

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*First Published: Apr 3, 2023, 11:56 am CDT