The Deceptive Drip: How AI-Fooled the World with ‘Puffer Pope’

The Deceptive Drip: How AI-Fooled the World with ‘Puffer Pope’

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In this article, we’ll look at how an AI-generated image series of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket took the internet by storm, examining the implications for news authenticity and raising concerns about the proliferation of misinformation.


Key Takeaways:

  • AI-generated images of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket went viral on social media.

  • The images originated on a subreddit dedicated to the AI program Midjourney.

  • Many people believed the images were real, illustrating the growing realism of AI-generated content.

  • The viral spread of these images highlights concerns about the reliability of media and the potential for misinformation.

The Birth of “Puffer Pope”

An AI-generated image series of Pope Francis wearing a stylish white puffer jacket surfaced on the r/midjourney subreddit, where it gained traction and inspired nicknames such as “Dope Francis,” “Pope Smoke,” and “Pontiflex.”

The account that posted the images was later suspended, but the suspension was unrelated to the “Pope Drip” post.

Viral Spread on Social Media

The images quickly spread across social media platforms, fooling many users into believing that they were real photographs of Pope Francis in a trendy outfit.

Even celebrities like Chrissy Teigen were duped by the AI-generated images.

Identifying the Signs of AI Manipulation

While the images appeared convincing at first glance, closer inspection revealed signs of AI manipulation, such as unidentifiable objects, rudimentary rendering of the crucifix pendant, and warped lenses on the Pope’s glasses.

These inconsistencies were easily overlooked when viewed on mobile devices, contributing to the widespread belief in their authenticity.

The Dangers of Realistic AI-Generated Content

The viral spread of the “Puffer Pope” images underscores the potential dangers of realistic AI-generated content.

As AI image generators become more sophisticated, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between genuine photographs and fabricated images.

This poses a significant challenge to the credibility of news media and the potential for the spread of misinformation.

The Need for AI Content Labeling

In light of these concerns, some experts have called for the labeling of AI-generated content to ensure transparency and maintain trust in digital media.

Twitter has since labeled the AI-generated image of Pope Francis as such, setting an example for other platforms to follow.


The “Puffer Pope” phenomenon has highlighted the growing capabilities of AI-generated content and the potential risks associated with its widespread use.

While the images themselves may have been relatively innocuous, their viral spread serves as a reminder of the importance of scrutinizing the authenticity of digital media and the need for greater transparency in the age of AI.



Written by

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling is a renowned financial writer with over 10 years in the finance sector. With a strong economics background, he simplifies complex financial topics for a wide audience. Alexander contributes to top financial platforms and is working on his first book to promote financial independence.

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Judith Harvey is a seasoned finance editor with over two decades of experience in the financial journalism industry. Her analytical skills and keen insight into market trends quickly made her a sought-after expert in financial reporting.