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AI-generated photo of woman at PTI protest passed off as real

Creator of PTI protest-related image confirms he used Midjourney


Claim: An image shows a woman standing in front of riot police in Lahore during protests against the arrest of Imran Khan.

Fact: The image is not real but generated through artificial intelligence (AI) software Midjourney. Its creator says a real-life incident was the inspiration behind his creation.

On 11 May 2023, Twitter user @whirlingdervsh posted an image (archive) showing a woman standing in defiance in front of riot police in Lahore, Punjab, as protests against the arrest of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, erupted across the country on 9 May (archive).

Nayab, the person behind the account @whirlingdervsh, had Canada as their location in their bio but changed it to Germany a day later.

@whirlingdervsh captioned the picture as follows:

The amount of courage & resilience in our women is unmatched anywhere in the world! This is real FEMINISM! Aurat March burgers, take note!

The demonstrations against the former PM’s arrest had left at least eight people dead, 1,400 detained, and 145 police officers wounded, according to a report (archive) that cited authorities.

Pakistan Rangers had taken the cricketer-turned-politician into custody from the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) premises on the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) orders as he was set to appear in a hearing in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

Imran Khan was later released when the Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened, a 14 May report (archive) said.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check used reverse image search tools to try to ascertain the origin of the viral photo but was only directed to reposts.

We then analysed the visual to see if it was possibly generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and identified some elements — such as distorted hand, lack of transparency between strands of hair, and helmets not matching those worn by the Pakistani law enforcement agencies, among others — that lend credibility to the possibility, depicted as follows:

We also tried to recreate some images using prompts related to the PTI protests across Pakistan. Here are some of the results:

The prompts we used were along the following lines: “a pakistani woman wearing a shawl with her head uncovered and back-length hair, in a protest, walking towards riot police blurred in the background, her back is against the camera, there’s a bangle on her right hand, cinematic shot, dusty”.

Soch Fact Check also got in touch with Ibrahim Zauq, an Islamabad-based photojournalist, to get his opinion on what he thinks of the image and whether it was created through artificial intelligence.

Zauq observed that the subject in focus “is not actually a left hand but a right hand twisted backwards”.

“The other subjects — [officers of] law enforcement agencies — do not look like Pakistani security forces because of their uniforms and their helmets. Moreover, the light on them — backlit, or from behind — and the shallow depth of field suggest it is not an actual photograph, AI images are usually like this.

“The body shape, height, and physique are the same [in AI-generated visuals] as is the case in this picture, where they are of almost the same height. Other than that, the lighting is very indicative of AI as the main subject has high shadows and there are more highlights in the background. Pictures taken from a camera do not turn up like this,” he added.

Even the dress does not look Pakistani, Zauq explained. “It’s a bit of a dramatic dress and there’s no properly generated or rendered glare on the bangle on the subject’s right hand. The hair is clearly not rendered either.

“Another detail is that neither the Pakistani Army nor the Pakistan Rangers have boots as the ones the forces in the background are wearing, nor the police uniform,” he said. “It’s most probably an AI image, which has been processed further in [Adobe] Photoshop.”

Soch Fact Check was then able to find the creator of the visual and spoke to him.

Abdullah Saad, the chief executive of Where Consumers Come First (Wccf) Tech, a website focused on technology, confirmed that he made the visual himself, using Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence programme.

“The inspiration as explained under the original image was the incident involving Tayyaba Raja in Lahore,” Saad wrote, linking this video (archive). He had originally posted the visual on 11 May 2023.


Soch Fact Check found the video posted by multiple accounts on Twitter, such as here, here, here, here, and here.

The image also made it to the official Facebook of the PTI here, here, and here.

The image was posted here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook; it was also turned into a reel here and a video here.

We also found it here on TikTok.

Conclusion: The image is not real but generated through the artificial intelligence (AI) software Midjourney. Its creator says a real-life incident was the inspiration behind his creation.

Background image in cover photo: @PTIOfficial

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11 months ago

[…] Did you know an AI-generated photo of a PTI protester was passed off as real? […]

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