Midjourney, a prominent AI image generation platform, has announced the discontinuation of its free trial service due to an upsurge in the misuse of its technology. The company’s CEO, David Holz, informed users on Discord that the overwhelming demand and abuse of the trial had necessitated the change. The existing security measures put in place were inadequate to prevent the production of deepfake images during the trial period. Consequently, the company has implemented a mandatory minimum payment of $10 USD per month to access its services.

Midjourney has recently come under fire following an increase in deepfake creation. Notable figures, including Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and Elon Musk, have been depicted in various scenes, causing widespread concern. Despite most of these images being quickly debunked, the potential for bad actors to exploit the platform, as well as similar AI image generation platforms like OpenAI’s DALL-E, remains high. Additionally, users have generated and circulated images depicting non-existent events, such as natural disasters.

Midjourney has struggled to establish and enforce content policies in the face of these challenges. Last year, Holz defended the company’s decision to ban images of Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Discord, citing the need to prioritize access to the Chinese market over permitting satirical content. In a recent conversation with users, Holz admitted that developing content policies had proven difficult as AI-generated images became increasingly realistic. To address this issue, Midjourney intends to enhance its AI moderation system to better screen for abuse.

While most AI-generated images can currently be distinguished through close scrutiny of fine details, the technology is advancing at a rapid pace. It is therefore imperative to develop clear guidelines and regulations to prevent the abuse of AI image generation technology in the production of harmful content.