The claim: Multiple images circulating online claim to show the wreckage of the Titan, a submersible imploded near the site of the Titanic shipwreck.
- One of the viral images was posted by a satirical Twitter account and is very likely to be AI-generated. The other image has been digitally altered, and the original image was published in a BBC report about deep-sea mining in 2020.
- The U.S. Coast Guard stated that as of June 23, 2023, the day the viral images were published, no photos or videos of the wreckage had been officially released.
Our verdict: The photos of the wreckage of the Titan are not genuine. Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
According to Reuters, the Titan, a deep-sea submersible carrying five people to the site of the Titanic shipwreck, went missing June 23, 2023. Multinational search teams had spent days scanning the area covering thousands of miles. The U.S. Coast Guard announced June 22 that the submersible has experienced a catastrophic implosion, killing everyone aboard. On June 23, multiple images (referred to as “viral image 1” and “viral image 2” hereafter) circulating online claim to show the wreckage of the Titan submersible.
As of the issuance of this report, viral image 1 had been shared 24 times, and it had received 243 comments and 918 likes or reactions; viral image 2 had been shared 17 times, and it had garnered 14 comments and 238 likes or reactions.
The viral image 1 was posted by a satirical account and is very likely to be AI-generated
A reverse image search discovered that the source of the viral image 1 was a similar image published June 23, 2023 by the Twitter account “prince_of_fakes.” A comparison shows the viral image identical to the Twitter image. The tweet reads, “Breaking: Photo – Titan titanic submarine implosion debris field. Imploded.”
The name of the Twitter account is “Prince of Deepfakes (Parody),” and they describe themselves as satirical in the profile. The introduction page of a website found in the Twitter account profile states, “Our team of whimsical writers, dexterous dreamers, and meandering misinformers are dedicated to bringing you the most outrageous, entertaining, and unbelievably untrue news stories that you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading.” The account has frequently shared information from unreliable sources, including images generated by Midjourney (an AI text-to-image generator), and articles from satirical news websites.
After uploading the viral image 1 to the Hive Moderation, an AI content detector, the result shows that there is a 99.9% possibility that the viral image was generated by Midjourney.
HKBU Fact Check has previously debunked misinformation related to AI-generated content and has published an article, titled “How to identify AI-generated pictures.”
The viral image 2 has been digitally altered
According to a fact check published June 21, 2023 by Deutsche Welle, the Titan was operated with a game controller. After its implosion, a widely circulated image claims to show the wreckage of the submersible’s controller submerged in the seabed.
A further search found an article published Dec. 4, 2020 by BBC. Upon comparison, it was found that the viral image 2 was almost identical to a photo shared in the BBC article, but the latter did not include a game controller. It is inferred that the BBC photo has been altered to add the game controller. The caption shows that the BBC photo was taken in 2015.
Furthermore, the U.S. Coast Guard told AFP in a June 23 email: “The Unified Command has not released any photos or videos of the debris. Unless released from our official press releases or our social media, these photos are unconfirmed.” Therefore, as of the publication date of the viral image, no official images of the submersible’s wreckage had been published by the U.S. authorities.
According to an article published June 28, 2023 by Reuters, part of the Titan’s wreckage was salvaged and brought back to the port of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada for further analysis.
The photos of the wreckage of the Titan are not genuine. Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Reuters, “ Titanic sub destroyed in ‘catastrophic implosion,’ all five aboard dead,” June 23, 2023.
- Facebook, post, June 23, 2023.
- Facebook, post, June 24, 2023.
- Twitter, tweet, June 22, 2023.
- Madeup News, About.
- Twitter, tweet, June 3, 2023.
- Twitter, tweet, June 5, 2023.
- Hive Moderation.
- OceanGate, Submersibles.
- Deutsche Welle, “Fact check: Was the Titan sub run with a game controller?” June 21, 2023.
- BBC, “The unseen man-made ‘tracks’ on the deep ocean floor,” Dec. 4, 2020.
- AFP Fact Check, “Photos misrepresented as debris from lost Titanic-bound sub,” June 24, 2023.
- Reuters, “Presumed human remains and shattered Titanic submersible returned to shore,” June 28, 2023.