Midjourney, the company behind the eponymous popular text-to-image AI image generator, has shut off access to its free trial version following a rise in viral deep fakes generated by its technology.
“Due to a combination of extraordinary demand and trial abuse we are temporarily disabling free trials until we have our next improvements to the system deployed,” Midjourney founder David Holz wrote on the company’s Discord server earlier this week.
A “deep fake” is realistic-looking media created by AI by altering images, videos, or audio to show real people doing or saying things they never did. While deep fakes may be used for fun and entertainment, the technology can also spread false information, influence opinions, or harm reputations.
Earlier this week, photos of Pope Francis wearing a super-stylish white puffer jacket and a diamond-encrusted necklace swept across the web. Last week, when mainstream news sites were reporting that former U.S. President Donald Trump was about to be arrested in New York, a spate of photos went viral that appeared to show the ex-president being chased by police. In both cases, the images looked even more believable than similar kinds of fakes created by experts using Photoshop.
Many generative AI sites, including Midjourney and Playground AI, have already instituted restrictions on prompts that would include sexual content. However, the issue of what’s acceptable use insofar as deep fakes are concerned is still being debated since all of these sites manufacture photographs that aren’t real.
Midjourney subscription plans range from $10 to $60 monthly, depending on the processing power, and features the user requires—including the ability to run concurrent jobs. The platform also offers annual subscription plans.
It’s unclear how closing its free tier will solve the problem. Midjourney’s terms of service already prohibit offensive images of celebrities or public figures.
Decrypt has contacted Midjourney and Stability AI, the creators of Stable Diffusion, for comment but has not yet heard back.
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