Millions Fall for Fake Video of Eiffel Tower on Fire

Computer-generated imagery and poor media literacy unite once again, fooling millions of social media users into believing that the wrought iron Eiffel Tower caught fire earlier this week. A CGI clip of the iconic Parisian landmark in flames amassed over eight million views on TikTok and began generating popularity on X (formerly Twitter) before media fact-checkers could set the record straight.

Augmented One, a 3D visualization studio in Yerevan, Armenia, posted a nine-second hyperrealistic animation of the flaming tower on YouTube last July, specifying that it was created with visual effects in its title and video description. However, the clip was more recently picked up by a few TikTok users who claimed that the Eiffel Tower was actively ablaze this week and offered little to no further information other than claiming it was real.

Fact-checkers from VerifyThis and Reuters hopped on the case by consulting the tower’s livestream footage, checking with the official websites and social media accounts for Parisian tourism and culture sectors and local government officials, and reverse clip-searching the footage to disprove the viral video.

Regardless, many social media users on X and TikTok remain convinced that the tower was in danger despite the absence of news coverage, relevant details such as dates and times, and confirmed evidence of computer-generated imagery. The spread of disinformation and rise of social media bots has reached an astounding high as of 2023, especially in the realm of US politics, as X moderators fail to extinguish swarms of automated accounts publishing unverified content ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

AI-generated imagery in particular continues to trick people online through the widespread sharing of hyperrealistic visuals. Last week, “photos” of the Pope celebrating New Year’s Eve at a nightclub went viral on Facebook before fact-checkers attributed the images to Midjourney. The Pope has been notably popular as a target for AI as he was rendered in a sleek white puffer jacket and dubbed “Dope Francis” in early 2023, shocking the internet before people learned to take a closer look.

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