Midjourney – The Lone Wolf with Near-Zero Regulations

The problem is, Midjourney is too good. And, the lack of moderation policies makes its case even more concerning

Since its release, AI image generator Midjourney has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism pertaining to copyright infringement. Inevitably, this resulted in a class-action lawsuit against the company, which it has since refrained to comment on. In the latest, the company has decided to halt its free trial services. The reasons behind this move can be many. 

Most recently, photos of the Pope wearing a stylish jacket and Donald Trump getting arrested went viral. A large population on the internet mistook these deepfake images as real, resulting in Midjourney facing even more backlash.

Midjourney recently released the 5th version of its image-generation software capable of generating photo-realistic images. This saw an influx of users trying to register for the free trial of the software. Interestingly, the newer version of the software was never offered under the free-trial for the public. 

David Holz, CEO of Midjourney, confirmed that the rush of new users was the reason he decided to shut down the free-trial services, not the viral images, citing, “extraordinary demand and trial abuse” in a message on Discord. The “abuse” annotation was initially linked to the viral celebrity and political photos. 

Midjourney is Too Good

Moving over the criticism, Midjourney V5 is amazing! Apart from the fake photos of Pope and Trump, photos of Elon Musk holding hands with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez went viral as well. Another one was with GM CEO Mary Barra. Musk funnily responded saying that he would never wear that outfit. 

A part of the problem is – Midjourney is too good. And, the lack of moderation policies make the case even more concerning. After all, the drama about fake images going around the internet, apart from stopping the free trial the company’s response sounds like it’s not bothered at all. It has stayed on its policy of just expanding the list of banned words. On not allowing creation of images of Xi Jinping and similar political figures, though it allows Biden and Trump, Holz said that, “it is only to minimise drama.”

There’s another reason Midjourney has been doing so well. Apart from the phenomenal, realistic images, the company’s free trial policy attracted a lot of users. On the downside, however, this eventually led to people creating fake accounts for more free trials. This, Midjourney said, was another reason for shutting down the trial. 

It is crazy to see how a company with a very small team and no investments, is giving giants like OpenAI and Stable Diffusion a run for their money. But on an interesting note, Emad Mostaque, creator of Stable Diffusion, wrote on Midjourney’s public discord server that “he helped fund the beta expansion”, but has no role in Midjourney otherwise. Seems like it is not a competition afterall. 

Holz Got No Holt

The lack of a uniform regulation in the AI image-generation industry has allowed every company to decide its own rules on the fly. Companies decide what is permissible and what is not, and the government is clearly clueless about installing guardrails. 

Similar to how OpenAI’s GPT-4 invited criticism and a halt petition from researchers on training anything further, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E represent the same about AI image-generation models. Interestingly, Midjourney lies right in the middle of the rules and regulations.

DALL-E is governed by OpenAI’s policies. Thus, it can only generate “G-rated content”, which means restricting the generation of geopolitical and controversial events’ images.

On the other end is Stable Diffusion. Even though Stability AI does not allow generation of violent and sexual images, it has open-sourced its software. This has resulted in a lot of people using Stable Diffusion for exactly the purpose that it was not intended to – generate violent and sexual images. 

When it comes to Midjourney, its guidelines firstly state that the user should be above the age of 13. But even then, the generator is able to generate NSFW content just by simple prompts. Holz said that the company is taking steps to improve and remove any dangerous capabilities from the software

For now, the community guidelines on Midjourney have a very interesting statement — “We are not a democracy. Behave respectfully or lose your rights to use the service

Mohit Pandey
Mohit dives deep into the AI world to bring out information in simple, explainable, and sometimes funny words. He also holds a keen interest in photography, filmmaking, and the gaming industry.

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