A whirlwind of speculation ensued after Princess of Wales Kate Middleton posted her first official photo since abdominal surgery in December. 

Kate Middleton and the Palace are already under intense public scrutiny as a consequence of limited communication from the Palace since she underwent surgery.

There have been no official photographs of Kate since surgery, and each the Prince and Princess of Wales have canceled public appearances, resulting in a swath of conspiracy theories alleging that Kate is perhaps severely in poor health and even deceased. 

Kensington Palace’s photograph, intended to capture a candid family moment, might need also sought to reassure the general public about her well-being. If this was the tactic, it backfired dramatically. 

Thank you in your kind wishes and continued support during the last two months.

Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C

The Prince of Wales, 2024 pic.twitter.com/6DywGBpLLQ

— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) March 10, 2024

Within minutes, hundreds of observers highlighted issues with the image that strongly suggested it was digitally manipulated.

While the ultra-clean aesthetic of the photo is sufficient to tempt initial suspicion, several sections of the image strongly suggest the involvement of AI or digital manipulation.

Of course, the Royals, like other celebrities and public figures, professionally touch up their official photographs. But these edits seem a little bit deeper.

AI deep fakeThe image comprises quite a few evidence of digital manipulation, including diffuse edges, no wedding ring for Kate, oddly crossed fingers, a big Adam’s Apple on Kate’s throat, and green foliage within the background (unlikely for March).

As the controversy picked up, media outlets began withdrawing the photograph, including The Associated Press (AP), Reuters, Getty Images, Agence France-Presse (AFP), and the Press Association. These news agencies allegedly didn’t receive communication or instruction from the Palace.

  • PA Media initially trusted the photograph’s authenticity but retracted it after emerging manipulation concerns.
  • Getty Images confirmed the removal of the image from their platform, aligning with their editorial policy that mandates the accuracy of the content they supply.
  • AP even issued a direct “kill notification” for the image, advising customers to remove it as a consequence of its apparent manipulation. They reiterated their commitment to editorial standards: “AP doesn’t use altered or digitally manipulated images.”
  • Reuters also removed the image following a post-publication review, underlining their ongoing review of the situation.
  • AFP notified their clients concerning the alteration concerns resulting in the image withdrawal from their systems.

AI deep fakesAP’s “Kill Notification”

On the eleventh March, in response to the unfolding controversy, the Princess of Wales issued an announcement: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to precise my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a really joyful Mother’s Day.” 

Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to precise my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a really joyful Mother’s Day. C

— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) March 11, 2024

Unsurprisingly, this did little or no to quell doubt and rumors. Is it plausible that Kate herself is messing around along with her images? She is a photography enthusiast, so there’s some plausibility to that.

However, is Photoshop even used here? We can’t determine of course, nevertheless it perhaps looks as if the editing is more extensive than this will justify.

One possibility is that the image could possibly be stitched together from individual manipulated or AI-generated images. The diffuse edges identified within the photos might indicate the usage of AI editing tools inside Photoshop (called Firefly). 

While conspiracy theories are rife, one of the crucial striking points is the Palace’s willingness to make use of a manipulated image and the actual fact it slipped through a presumably robust editorial process.

At a time of immense speculation about Kate’s health and rising debate surrounding the protection and ethics of AI deep fakes, it doesn’t appear to be a smart move, whether intended in good faith or not.

This incident will leave a long-lasting impression on the dialogue surrounding digital authenticity and the connection between public figures and their portrayal within the media. It’s sure to draw attention for some time yet. 

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