An image of trees on an island that appears to resemble the facial features of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts alongside a false claim that it shows a photograph taken by a French tourist in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. However, the image's creator told AFP he created it with an artificial intelligence tool.

"This was taken in Gokarna by a French tourist. A message to the entire planet Earth from mother nature," reads in part the caption of the English-language post shared here on Facebook on September 26, 2023. "Just zoom and see. Marvellous. Universal Consciousness has a way to send messages."

Gokarna is a coastal town in the state of Karnataka in southern India.

The image shows trees on an island against the background of a setting sun arranged in a way that resembles Modi's face.



Comments from users indicated they believed the image was a real photo.

One user commented: "A beautiful nature-crafted click of our PM Narendra Modi."

"Long live our leader Modiji," commented another user.

The image was also shared with a similar false claim in Facebook posts here and here and on X, formerly known as Twitter, here.

However, the picture was in fact created with an artificial intelligence (AI) tool called Stable Diffusion.

Image generated with AI

Madhav Kohli -- who identifies himself as an artist based in India on his social media profile -- told AFP on September 27 that he created the image digitally.

"I was messing around with stable diffusion and wanted to see what kind of image I could make with PM Modi's portrait," Kohli told AFP. "Based on the theme I wanted it not to be directly visible, as if someone would see it and not see much more than a set of trees on a beach, but if they looked closer into it, they'd see his face and they could never unsee it in the image."

The picture in the misleading posts can be seen on his X and Instagram accounts (archived here and here)

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in false posts (left) and the same picture shared by Kohli on his social media accounts (right):



Kohli has published other images that similarly use colours and shades in a way that resembles a person -- as seen here and here -- on his Instagram account (archived here and here).

AFP has published a guide on how to identify images generated by AI tools.