Deepfake Pope Francis wears white puffa jacket

Occurred: March 2023

A deepfake image of the Pope clad in a Belanciaga puffer jacket went viral on the internet, leading to commentary that the age of mass graphic misinformation and disinformation has arrived.

The image was a deepfake created by 'Pablo Xavier', a Chicago-based construction worker using the Midjourney image generator. Xavier said he came up with the idea after taking mushrooms. 

According to media reports, many people believed the image was real. The incident persuaded Midjourney to stop free trials of its technology citing a massive influx of new users abusing free credits.

The images were rated 'Highly Suspicious' with 100 percent confidence by disinformation detection non-profit organisation TrueMedia.

Operator: Pablo Xavier
Developer: Midjourney
Country: USA; Global
Sector: Religion
Purpose: Entertain
Technology: Deepfake - image; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning  
Issue: Mis/disinformation; Ethics/values
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Manipulation analysis ⚠️

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: April 2023
Last updated: April 2024