Do photos shared on Facebook show giant, fantastical creatures that nobles hunted in the forests of Thailand over a century ago, during the reign of King Rama V? No, that's not true: These images are not real photos. They were generated by an artificial intelligence program, such as Midjourney, that uses text-based prompts to produce on request images in a specific style and on a specific topic.
The earliest example of this collection of images that Lead Stories found was posted on April 7, 2023, in the Facebook group Midjourney Official, where all the contributions are AI-generated images. The post was captioned:
Mysterious photographs of a group of nobles hunting that cannot be explained in the reign of King Rama V of Thailand...
A copy of the collection was posted on April 11, 2023, in the Aliens & Ufos Facebook group by the Facebook user T1 Mysterious & Discovery. The post was captioned:
Photos of mysterious animals by a group of hunting nobles during the reign of King Rama V (Thailand)....
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Apr 14 15:33:01 2023 UTC)
Some Facebook posts (here and here) shared links to articles with these photos on websites such as thepressage.com and dautruongtoanhoc.net. The captions for these photos suggested the scenes are real.
Close scrutiny of these detailed images reveals that many of the people pictured have misshapen faces and hands. Some may have extra or missing limbs. Such mishaps are typical of AI rendering, even though the technology continues to improve.
(Source: Lead Stories composite image made with Facebook screenshots taken on Fri Apr 14 18:01:01 2023 UTC)
Thanarat Tairongong, who is a regular contributor to the Midjourney Official group, posted the original set of sepia-toned images of the supposed Thai hunting party from the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910).
Tairongong has recently posted several Thailand-themed collections of images that were generated in the style of photography from 100 years ago. These collections are similar in style to the hunting-party images, and appear to be one person's exploration of a theme.
Tairongong also shares other Midjourney image styles and categories, including architecture and fashion.
Lead Stories contacted Tairongong to verify that the collection of hunting-party images came from his prompts, and will update this article if we receive a reply.
(Source: Lead Stories composite image made with Facebook screenshots taken on Fri Apr 14 18:01:01 2023 UTC. The composite image will open larger in a new window.)
In its website's About section, Midjourney defines itself as "an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species."
But while AI generates Midjourney's images, the process does not happen without the vision of the human who experiments with the prompts that produce the desired result and who selects the images to be developed further.
Midjourney's Quick Start tutorial explains how to use the "/imagine" prompt with the Midjourney bot to create an image. In response to the prompt, the bot generates four images a user can select from to develop further -- a process called "upscaling." The image below shows the grid of four images the bot generated using the prompt "vibrant california poppies."
(Source: midjourney.com screenshot taken on Fri Apr 14 17:23:52 2023 UTC)
Lead Stories has debunked or added context to several claims about AI-generated images, including a video slideshow of a supposed alien autopsy, a contrived scene of Donald Trump's arrest and a make-believe photo of a fashionable Pope Francis.
All these fact checks can be viewed in Lead Stories' Deepfakes section.