Social media users are claiming an image shows former US president Barack Obama and his family on an island owned by the late Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who had a bevy of celebrity friends. But the photo was altered from a family picture taken in Oahu, Hawaii to add a building connected to the disgraced American financier.

"Outta all the places to take a family photo," says a December 6, 2023 Facebook post with more than 1,000 shares.

The image features the former Democratic president, former first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha. An arrow points to a striped building above the sea in the background.

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Similar posts have spread for years across Facebook and platforms such as TikTok and X, formerly known as Twitter -- including in Spanish.

Some also include a screenshot of a June 2020 article from the Argentine newspaper Clarin about Little Saint James, Epstein's private Caribbean island in the US Virgin Islands. The article highlights a photo showing a temple-like structure.

Epstein died by suicide in a federal detention facility in 2019 after he was arrested and charged with sexual trafficking of minors. Prosecutors alleged he sexually exploited dozens of young girls between 2002 and 2005.

The financial magnate had previously been convicted in 2008 of paying young girls for massages, but he served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal. The attorney general of the Virgin Islands accused him after his death of sexually abusing and trafficking girls as young as 12 on Little Saint James, as well.

Epstein had connections to high-profile figures such as former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, fueling numerous conspiracy theories about his death.

But the photo of the Obamas circulating online is doctored.

The manipulated picture appears to show the family and a building on Little Saint James -- a blue-and-white structure with a golden dome featured in media reports.

A reverse image search shows Michelle Obama posted the original photo to Instagram and other social media platforms on August 4, 2020, her husband's birthday (archived here, here and here).

The building linked to Epstein does not appear in the genuine picture, which several US media outlets republished.

Michelle Obama's posts do not say where the photo was taken, but further reverse image searches surfaced publications about tourism in Oahu, Hawaii -- specifically Lānaʻi Lookout and Kahauloa Cove (archived here and here).

Imagery from Google Maps Street View and Google Earth matches details in the Obama family portrait (archived here and here).

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The Obamas regularly travel to Hawaii, where the former president spent part of his childhood.

AFP contacted Obama's office for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has debunked other altered images of the Obamas here, here and here.