Can you Spot an AI-Generated Image and Not Be Fooled?

Mar 29, 2023
Updated • Mar 30, 2023

With the AI-Generated Pope Francis image going viral, you may want to know how to identify these fake images

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about the fake AI-generated image of Pope Francis wearing a puffer jacket, especially if you read yesterday’s article about it. In retrospect, many are saying that it should have been evident that the image wasn’t real. However, that’s only in retrospect. When the photo went viral, it fooled many people around the world for a few hours.

It’s brought a new question to mind that’s trending today: is it possible to spot an AI-generated image and not be fooled? With deepfake image production moving from humans with photo-editing apps to AI technology, there’s a concern that we won’t be able to tell the difference between reality and really good reproductions. 

Drago, in the comments of yesterday’s post, actually was pretty spot on with one of the methods you can use. Just take a closer look at the image and scrutinize every aspect. Be an investigator, judging every element of the photo.

If we take the Pope Francis photo of yesterday, Drago is right when he says there are some clear signs of AI manipulation. The Pope’s hand is malformed and not even holding the can properly. The crucifix is hanging desperately with one part of the chain missing, and there’s something very wrong with the Pope’s eyebrow and glasses covering it.

While this is a great technique, AI will only become better at generating images like this going forward. I’m not sure who of you wants to spend hours trying to see if any details are strange. Probably a faster method is to check social media platforms like Twitter to see what people are saying about the images. 

Of course, I’m not going to ask you to rely on Twitter as a credible source, but people in the comments usually do a good job of ripping things like this to shreds. 

The University of Naples and Nvidia are two examples of where companies are trying to see if AI-detection tools for images are possible. We already have a few of these tools for written text, but I’ve been testing several of them for weeks, and they struggle to detect actual human writing in many cases. If finding AI text is so challenging, imagine how it must be for photos. 

For now, you’ll have to use your judgment and see what everyone else is saying. Somewhere, out there, you’ll find the truth, or some semblance of it.


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  1. spooky said on March 30, 2023 at 5:59 am

    The right hand / fist looks like an eerie alien skull, kind of fits in with church dead people black pope nobility occultism etc.

  2. Deep_Fried_Desk said on March 29, 2023 at 11:11 pm

    If it’s really low resolution and printed into a real, paper, newspaper, many people will fall for it.

  3. Drago said on March 29, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    Martin, can you do some editorial amendments? As Tom pointed out, the actual cited URI itself (to my post) should be (

    Failing that, at least clean-up the link’s Fragment ID [] to point to the article itself. Currently the Fragment Identifier leads nowhere (hence the browser just automatically sends you to: []) because there is no actual such URI value to match… :-(

    The billowing clouds that puff and flower
    Are calling me to an ancient bower

    Where no thing is shall nothing be
    Only then – will I be free
    The burning hills…

    Most of the pseudo-intellectual AI generated pictures I have seen recently here, have absolutely terrible hand structure; again a child could do better. ;-)

  4. Tom Hawack said on March 29, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    Now that’s a most interesting topic in my view!

    First, indeed with retrospect evidence appears as if it was obvious at first sight :let’s forget our ego (ego, not talent : some spot immediately, I call them the “fake cops’ because they have the eye, the ear.

    Secondly, the plausibility, though this approach may be subjective : is Trump fighting with cops plausible? Not in my view but, hey! some may think it is!

    Third, if indeed some AI approximations (at this stage of AI anyway) may be spotted, requires zooming but not only : some details may be obvious for some and not for others. As stated in the article, investigation is required, and investigation means attention, sometimes concentration, always time and work.

    Fourth : what the masses say about it, and where are the masses? Social websites, where else? Twitter mainly? perhaps, I know nothing of ’em social places!

    Fifth, and that’s a personal aspiration : never transmit an information as true when we only think it is, that avoids the exponential growth of mistakes.

    One last thing (for now) : the link to Drago’s comment stated in the article is rather :
    The one in the article opens only the article’s page …

    Nice topic, hope it’ll have descendants.

    1. Tom Hawack said on March 29, 2023 at 7:57 pm

      “fake cops” is ambiguous, or is it not? Preferably “Public Fake detectives” … “Fake Department Special Agents” … any other better formulation?

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