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ALPS Treated Water Disinformation and Fake Photos Surge on Social Media

Disinformation is spreading on Chinese and Taiwanese social media about Fukushima's treated water release, including an AI-generated image of a mutant lobster.



A fake photo of a gigantic lobster, determined to be an AI-generated composite image by the Taiwan FactCheck Center. (Provided by the Taiwan FactCheck Center)

TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began discharging ALPS treated water into the ocean on August 24. Since then, a wave of erroneous information on the discharged water has been circulating on Chinese and Taiwanese social media. This disinformation aims to stoke fear by falsely asserting the dangers of the treated water. 

It could be an attempt to sabotage the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) campaign ahead of the Taiwanese presidential election in January. The DPP focuses on bilateral ties with Japan. 

Taiwanese presidential candidates Democratic Progressive Party's Vice President Lai Ching-te (center), Kuomintang's Mayor Hou Yu-ih of New Taipei (right), and Taiwan People's Party's Ko Wen-je, former mayor of Taipei, on December 20. (©Central Election Commission via Kyodo)

Taiwan FactCheck Center is a non-profit organization based in Taiwan. The Center has been analyzing the information on TEPCO ALPS treated water that has flooded the Internet since August 24. Among these posts, the Center discovered some 20 cases of disinformation and issued a report to alert the public. These posts included the false claim that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was hospitalized after eating marine products from Fukushima Prefecture

AI-Generated Images

The Center also identified several photos depicting mutated gigantic crustaceans and octopuses as disinformation. The photo captions falsely claim that treated water had contaminated marine life, causing it to grow to gargantuan proportions. In many cases, the photo captions are written in simplified Chinese characters, which are used in Mainland China. It is widely speculated that the images originated from a Chinese source. 

Following a thorough inspection, the Center concluded that the photos were generated using artificial intelligence (AI). These images were replete with unnatural elements. Such peculiarities include the position of the men standing with the giant creatures in the ocean and the crooked horizon.

A representative for the Center said, "Information on food safety is of great concern to society. Therefore, false information on the subject tends to spread rapidly." 

He added, "There has been a considerable amount of disinformation on the ALPS treated water [released from Fukushima] recently. We are making sure to scrutinize all of it meticulously." 


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Akio Yaita, Taipei Bureau Chief


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