Several mainstream Indian news outlets ran an AI-generated photo in their news articles on the Uttarakhand tunnel rescue operation claiming it showed rescuers posing for group photos after the successful evacuation of 41 workers from the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.
The viral photo was credited to news agency Press Trust of India, which uploaded the image as part of its syndicated feed, that was then picked up by other news outlets.
The use of AI-generated photos in news has given rise to an ethical conundrum that is being hotly debated around the world.
Forty one workers who were trapped in Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel since November 12, 2023 after a landslide struck the area were finally rescued on Tuesday. The multi-agency rescue operation, which lasted 17 days, overcame numerous setbacks. The rescue mission, which involved tunneling experts from overseas as well, has captured people's attention in India and made headlines globally.
The photo was also viral on X (formerly Twitter) and was shared by several accounts after news of the trapped workers being rescued safely broke out.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore posted the synthetic image on X along with other photos from the tunnel rescue operation.
BOOM found that the viral photo published by news outlets is an AI-generated photo and not an actual photo taken after the successful rescue operation from the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand.
The image contained several discrepancies such as deformed fingers, faces with misshapen eyes and saturated colours - all tell-tale signs of the image being created with AI.
We also found that the viral photo was posted by the X handle @Exclusive_Minds which had posted several AI-generated photos on the tunnel rescue operation.
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The image was uploaded by PTI as part of its syndicated copy which was then picked up by other news outlets.
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BOOM reached out to a source within PTI, who said it was an inadvertent mistake and that the photo was picked up by the news agency after it was posted by Rajyavardhan Rathore. The source requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly.Real photos and footage after the rescue operation can be seen below: