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HomeFact CheckAI-Generated Image Of Pope Francis In ‘Balenciaga Jacket’ Baffles Social Media

AI-Generated Image Of Pope Francis In ‘Balenciaga Jacket’ Baffles Social Media

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Claim
Pope Francis dressed in a stylish white puffer jacket from Balenciaga

Fact
The image was digitally created using AI tool Midjourney

A photo of Pope Francis, dressed in a white puffer jacket purportedly from luxury fashion house Balenciaga, is doing the rounds on social media, with several users lauding the “style” of the 86-year-old head of the Catholic Church. We also received the same image on our Whatsapp tipline (9999499044), requesting it to be fact-checked.

The archived versions of the tweets can be seen here, here and here.

Also read: Did the Police Chief Join the Anti-Netanyahu Protest In Israel’s Tel Aviv? Here’s The Truth Behind Viral Video

Fact check

Newschecker first ran a keyword search for “Pope Francis Balenciaga”, which led us to multiple news reports on how an AI-generated image of the Pope wearing a puffer jacket fooled the world. According to a Forbes report, dated March 27, 2023, the image was generated by AI tool Midjourney and posted on Reddit by u/trippy_art_special, before spreading across Twitter and TikTok.

“If one looks closely, the image can easily be identified as an AI creation; the pope’s ear is smudgy, his glasses melt into the shadow across his face, and his hand, clutching a coffee cup, is warped. Skin texture, as always, looks a bit waxy, but at first glance, many assumed the image was real,” read the report. A similar report by Time magazine explains how to spot an AI-generated image like the “Balenciaga Pope”.

“While “Balenciaga Pope” wasn’t nearly as misleading as ‘outlaw Donald Trump’, the speed at which the image spread, along with the credulity of some social media users, sparked concerns that the public is not ready for incoming wave of misinformation threatened by the rise of generative AI,” read the Forbes report, indicating how public AI image generation tools have grown powerful enough to generate photorealistic imagery.

According to a Business Insider report, dated March 27, 2023, the fake image was first posted to Reddit on March 24, titled “The Pope Drip,” in a subreddit called r/midjourney. It was generated by an artificial intelligence program called Midjourney.

What is Midjourney?

Midjourney was founded by David Holz — who also co-founded software firm Leap Motion — in July 2022 and uses artificial intelligence to generate images using textual descriptions provided by users, similar to OpenAI’s DALL-E, according to the Business Insider report.

Who created the image?

Buzzfeed News spoke to the man behind “the first real mass-level AI misinformation case”, Pablo Xavier, a 31-year-old construction worker from the Chicago area who declined to share his last name over fears that he could be attacked for creating the images

“I’m trying to figure out ways to make something funny because that’s what I usually try to do,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I try to do funny stuff or trippy art — psychedelic stuff. It just dawned on me: I should do the Pope. Then it was just coming like water: ‘The Pope in Balenciaga puffy coat, Moncler, walking the streets of Rome, Paris,’ stuff like that.”   Xavier said it was “definitely scary” that “people are running with it and thought it was real without questioning it.”

Conclusion

An image of Pope Francis in a white puffer jacket was found to be digitally created using an AI tool.

Result: Altered media

Sources
Forbes report, March 27, 2023
Time report, March 28, 2023
Buzzfeed News interview, March 27, 2023


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Kushel HM
Kushel HM
Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

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