Photo from 2020 Tokyo Olympics event shared in Greece in 2024 with wrong context

A photo of a Japanese boy at an event in 2020 linked to the Tokyo Olympics was shared on social media in February 2024 falsely claiming to show children in Japan marking Greek Language Day this year. Posts sharing the photo criticise Greek authorities for a range of issues, including not organising similar events at home to honour Greek culture.

Facebook posts like this one on February 9 shared the photo of a boy with the claim that he was among elementary school children in Japan eating Greek food to honour the Greek Language Day the same day.

Text on the image says: “9/2 International Greek Language Day and 19 elementary schools in Misato, Japan, in honour of it, tasted Greek food and all the schools were filled with Greek flags!” The photo was widely shared on Facebook, for example here, here, and here.

However, an online search for the image shows that the picture is from 2020 and was taken during an event for the Olympic Games and not Greek Language Day.

Complaints about the Greek language being honoured abroad but not at home were also made with another image claiming to show Japanese children eating Greek food, for example in this post which had more than 100 shares. However, this image shows several signs that it was created by artificial intelligence.

<span>Screenshot of the false claim on Facebook. Image captured: 19/02/2024</span><span><button class=

Screenshot of the false claim on Facebook. Image captured: 19/02/2024

“How sad that our language and culture are symbols of Western civilisation, and foreigners remind us of this, while we are concreting the Acropolis, and at the same time the ruling regime is condemned and vilified in the European Parliament,” said posts such as this one sharing the image of the boy.

The government’s decision to repave pathways at the site of the ancient Acropolis outraged many in Greece in 2021. The comments about Greece being taken before the European Parliament may be referring to a vote there on February 7, 2024 expressing concern over developments regarding media freedom and treatment of migrants, among other issues.

Other comments complain that Greek Language Day was not promoted in Greece. “In our schools, they don’t even know about it!” said one. “We here didn’t have a clue and no-one in the media mentioned the issue,” said another. “In Greece and Cyprus did they do something in schools?” asked another.

This post is also critical: “In Greece, we didn’t get any news about the International Greek Language Day. Our Government is busy with the LGBTQI marriage.” The same-sex marriage bill passed in the Greek Parliament on February 15, 2024 stirred controversy and false claims shared on social media such as this one.

From the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

A Google reverse image search for the photo of the boy with the Greek flag led us to an article featuring the same picture in July 2020. A further search of the photo with the text cropped out led us to another article from a different Greek website. This second article cites the website greecejapan.com and an event in the Japanese city of Misato.

A Google search using the keywords “Misato” in Greek and “Greecejapan.com” led us to what appears to be the original story that published the picture of the boy on July 2, 2020.

The editor-in-chief of greecejapan.com, Junko Nagata, told AFP in an email on February 16 that the photo was taken on June 30, 2020 by the Municipality of Misato in a primary school in the city and provided to the publication.

The city is about 20 kilometres from central Tokyo and was part of the Japanese government’s “Host Town Initiative” aimed at spreading the Olympic concept throughout Japan.

Nagata said Greek food was served at an event “for the children to feel closer to Greece and at the same time to be informed about the actions and exchanges of their city with Greece”. The article mentions that the event took place in 19 schools, the same number of schools cited in some of the misleading social media posts.

The Embassy of Japan in Greece’s official Facebook page also shared a Facebook post in July 2020 announcing that Misato has been declared the host city of the Greek Olympic delegation. The image of the boy was also shared on another Facebook page which gave details of the same event.

<span>Screenshot of another photo of the same article from the website Greecejapan.com. Image captured on 19/02/2024</span><span><button class=

Screenshot of another photo of the same article from the website Greecejapan.com. Image captured on 19/02/2024

AI-generated photo

The same claims appeared in this post, which had more than 100 shares and included an image of Japanese children eating Greek food. However, the image bears several signs that indicate it was created with artificial intelligence, which was pointed out by an X user here.

One way to identify AI-generated images is through imperfections and distortions. Some are evident in this specific image. For example, the children’s hands look odd as do the stripes of the Greek flag in the background.

At the bottom left-hand corner is a watermark for the website imgflip.com, suggesting it was created or digitally altered using this site, which offers a range of image manipulation tools.

<span>Snapshots of the images posted on the Facebook post. Yellow circles were added by AFP. Image captured: 20.02.2024</span><span></div></div></div><div class=
Snapshots of the images posted on the Facebook post. Yellow circles were added by AFP. Image captured: 20.02.2024

February 9 was instituted as International Greek Language Day in 2017 by a joint decision of the Ministers for Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Education of Greece. The aim is to highlight the Greek language’s contribution to the advancement of European and global culture.

Several events take place on the date, including in the Greek communities abroad. For example, in 2024 in Japan, the day was marked at the Minato City Centre for Traditional Culture in Tokyo with the participation of scholars and the general public, according to the Embassy of Greece in Japan.

By 111 Tech

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