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Fake images of Osaka's Tsutenkaku Tower with anti-vax ads spread online

This screenshot shows the official Twitter account of Tsutenkaku Tower warning people of the faked ad photos.

OSAKA -- Faked photos of neon signs on Osaka's iconic Tsutenkaku Tower that could be construed as discouraging people from getting the coronavirus vaccine have gone viral online, prompting the tower's operator to warn people about the "vicious rumor"-spreading images.

    Tsutenkaku Kanko Co. on Nov. 4 revealed on its official Twitter account that fake images of ads including ones roughly translating to "Don't get the shots" and "Under clinical trials. Don't get the shots" are spreading on social media.

    According to President Takamitsu Takai, the apparently photoshopped images began to spread on Nov. 3 via Twitter and Instagram, sparking a flood of complaints to the firm, such as, "Is your company really putting up this ad?" and, "Stop the images from spreading if they are disinformation." One person even asked, "How much does it cost to put up an (anti-vaccine) ad?" The firm says its operations have been disrupted by the complaints.

    Tsutenkaku Tower is seen lit up in green in accordance with Osaka Prefecture's own coronavirus alert level, in this photo taken in Osaka's Naniwa Ward on Oct. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Rei Kubo)

    The Tsutenkaku Tower has been lit up either in red, yellow or green to reflect the current coronavirus alert level set by Osaka Prefecture. The tower had just turned green, the safest level, on Oct. 25, for the first time in about a year and three months, after infection spread in the prefecture subsided.

    "We are finally seeing signs of recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The tourism and restaurant industries have been battered, and now is the time for the whole of Osaka to unite to overcome the crisis. This is not a problem affecting the Tsutenkaku Tower alone. Disinformation like these images are malicious and utterly unacceptable," Takai said.

    If the spread of the false ad images does not abate, the company says it will consider legal action against the original poster and those who spread them.

    "These images appear to have been rendered by a criminal for pleasure. We are looking into responding to the case as forcible obstruction of business," the company president said.

    (Japanese original by the Digital News Center)

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