Are these images of Pope Francis in a white puffer jacket real?

We came across the following images circulating online:

The post, which has gone viral on Twitter and Reddit simply shows what appears to be Pope Francis, the current head of the Catholic church dressed in a very large puffer jacket. With the image starkly contrasting his usual “Papal regalia”, netizens were quick to comment on his appearance, creating multiple memes about his seemingly rap-inspired fashion choices.

The images were not real however, having been created by Midjourney, an artificial intelligence tool that had been also used to create photo-realistic images of former president Donald Trump getting arrested, which we had previously debunked. The image was originally posted on the Midjourney subreddit before being reposted on Twitter.

These AI image generators, which also include OpenAI’s DALL-E and Stable Diffusion, allow anyone to simply describe the image they want to see using text. The images are able to be created because the tools have been trained on literally millions of images from the web, hence the realism of the pictures, with it being increasingly harder to distinguish real images from AI generated ones.

While these images of Pope Francis in a white puffer jacket are fake, they show the ease in which people can create disinformation with AI tools. It’s thus crucial for people to be more critical and vigilant when evaluating digital content. This can include using reverse image searches to check whether photos are genuine and being aware of the potential for deepfake/AI technology to be used for nefarious purposes.

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