Over the last couple of weeks, images like Pope Francis wearing a stylish puffer jacket and Donald Trump being arrested by police have gone viral on social media. As these images were shared endlessly, there was general confusion as some viewers didn’t realize the images were completely fabricated, believing them to be actual photographs. It’s further ignited concerns about the ability to spread misinformation through AI, and has prompted Midjourney to pause free trials for its service.
Midjourney is a popular AI image-generating service, and was the one used to create the controversial viral images in question. Founder and CEO David Holz confirmed in a Discord message that the company made the decision to pause free trials for the service, as spotted by The Washington Post. “We just want to minimize drama,” Holz said.
Making pictures of Trump getting arrested while waiting for Trump's arrest. pic.twitter.com/4D2QQfUpLZ— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) March 20, 2023
Midjourney asks users to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to access additional features and enjoy faster image processing, but a free trial was previously available for those looking to try out or casually use the service. The company hopes that temporarily cutting off free access will reduce the number of viral images being spread using the platform.
As AI technology has improved in recent months, Midjourney’s AI image-generated has gotten much better at creating realistic-looking images. As rumors swirled that Donald Trump could soon be getting arrested for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election, folks began generating and sharing images of the former President being arrested by police. Another image depicted Pope Francis in a large, white puffer jacket with a massive crucifix pendant to boot.
If AI-generated images continue to be the source of mass misinformation, Midjourney doesn’t want to be the source of those issues. It will be interesting to see if Midjourney reopens its free trials or keeps its service paywalled for the foreseeable future.