AI image generator Midjourney stops free trials but says influx of new users to blame

deepfake 1
deepfake 1

AI image generator Midjourney has halted free trials of its service, blaming a sudden influx of new users. Midjourney CEO and founder David Holz announced the change on Tuesday, originally citing “extraordinary demand and trial abuse” in a message on Discord (this announcement was spotted first by The Washington Post). In an email to The Verge, Holz stated that the pause is “because of massive amounts of people making throwaway accounts to get free images.”

“We think the culprit was probably a viral how-to video in china,” said Holz over email. “This happened at the same time as a temporary gpu shortage. The two things came together and it was bringing down the service for paid users.”

Given Holz’s reference to “abuse,” it was originally thought that the pause was linked to a spate of recent viral images created using Midjourney, including fabricated images of Donald Trump being arrested and the pope wearing a stylish jacket, which some mistook for real photographs. However, Holz characterized earlier reports as a “misunderstanding” and notes that the free trial of Midjourney never included access to the latest version of Midjourney, version 5, that creates the most realistic images and which is thought to have been used for these viral pictures.

Version 5 of Midjourney significantly improved the quality of images depicting people. For example, misshapen hands that were previously a hallmark of AI-generated images are now less of a challenge. Lighting and fabric are also more realistic, and the system is capable of generating images of countless celebrities and public figures.

These improvements have seemingly led to a number of Midjourney images going viral in recent weeks. They include not only fake pictures of Trump’s arrest and the pope looking fashionable but also French President Emmanuel Macron walking through the ongoing protests in Paris and Elon Musk holding hands with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.