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Debunked: Image of burning house in rural Ireland is AI-generated and not a real arson attack

The picture appeared on Facebook in recent days.

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AN IMAGE SHOWING a cottage in flames in the Irish countryside that was recently shared on social media does not depict a real event, but was generated by Artificial intelligence (AI).

The image was shared to Facebook on 23 May alongside the caption: “The last time unvetted men were let loose in rural Ireland – Black and Tans”.

The term “unvetted” is a coded reference to asylum seekers, whom anti-immigrant groups in Ireland have referred to as “unvetted men” to misleadingly amp up fears about them to imply that they could be criminals who post a risk to local communities.

The image shows a traditional cottage in an unspecified part of the countryside engulfed in flames and with smoke billowing from the roof.

The caption suggests that the cottage may have been burned by asylum seekers, or possibly the Black and Tans, an auxiliary group recruited into the Royal Irish Constabulary as reinforcements during the Irish War of Independence in the early 1920s (though colour photography did not exist then).

There have been several real-life arson attacks on Government accommodation earmarked for asylum seekers in recent years.

However, there are several features of the image posted on social media which point to the fact it is AI-generated.

The house in the image is unevenly structured: the section of the roof that slopes down and away from the front of the image is clearly longer than the section the slopes towards the front.

Screenshot 2024-05-28 144638 The roof of the house appears uneven when viewed more closely Facebook Facebook

There is also a rogue lick of flames at the apex of the house on the left-hand side, where a small section of the outside of the house appears to be on fire for no apparent reason.

Shadows in the image are also misaligned with the direction where the sun would be (to the right of the image).

The drainpipe on the right side of the house casts a long shadow while the drainpipe on the left side casts no shadow at all. The grassy bumps around the house likewise cast shadows in seemingly different directions, despite the direction they are facing.

Screenshot 2024-05-28 144823 Part of the house appears to be on fire at the apex for no apparent reason Facebook Facebook

Screenshot 2024-05-28 144946 Shadows on the left and right drainpipes are not consistent Facebook Facebook

And the roadway in front of the house is extremely narrow and would not realistically fit traffic when compared to the scale of the burning cottage.

Ireland’s anti-immigrant movement has increasingly used misleading AI-generated images in recent months.

The Journal has recently flagged similar images on social media, including one supposedly showing an anti-immigrant protest in Newtownmountkennedy and another purporting to show a woman and children living in a tent in Dublin.

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