Did Pope Francis appear walking on the street wearing a high-fashion white puffer coat? No, that's not true: This image is one of a series of four AI-generated images which were posted on the subreddit forum r/midjourney, "an official subreddit for Midjourney related content." Midjourney is an artificial intelligence program that creates images from natural language prompts.
The images were originally posted on the Reddit forum r/midjourney (archived here) on March 24, 2023, by the user trippy_art_special. The images were titled: "The Pope Drip." On March 25, 2023, one of the images was shared on Twitter (archived here). The tweet was captioned:
The boys in Brooklyn could only hope for this level of drip
This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:
(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Mon Mar 27 13:42:16 2023 UTC)
Midjourney AI opened beta testing to the public in July 2022. The program allows anyone to use a text-based prompt (examples here) to have the AI art generator render very specific images in different styles. The brief "About" description on the midjourney.com website reads:
Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.
We are a small self-funded team focused on design, human infrastructure, and AI. We have 11 full-time staff and an incredible set of advisors.
The Lead Stories composite image below shows the series of four images that were posted by u/trippy_art_special on the r/midjourney forum.
(Image source: Lead Stories composite image from Reddit screenshots taken on Mon Mar 27 14:46:49 2023 UTC)
The Lead Stories composite image (below) shows several similar images (examples here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) posted on r/midjourney by other users in the days after "The Pope Drip" was posted. According to the Urban Dictionary, "drip" is a term for a cool and stylish outfit. Another image titled "Biden keeping up with the latest fashion trends" shows a likeness of Joe Biden in a white puffer coat.
(Image source: Lead Stories composite image made with Reddit screenshots taken on Mon Mar 27 15:59:14 2023 UTC)
In the past Lead Stories has offered context for several series of AI-generated images which some people thought were photos depicting real events. These include images showing imagined arrests of Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, a fantasy high-altitude rainbow and an alien autopsy.