Midjourney Bans AI Images of Chinese President Xi Jinping
Midjourney does not allow users to generate pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping on its platform — the only world leader whose likeness is banned on the AI image generator.
The rules, enacted last year, recently came to light after Midjourney’s founder and CEO David Holz comments about the matter were reported by The Washington Post.
“We just want to minimize drama,” Holz wrote on a Discord chat. “Political satire in china is pretty not-okay, and at some point would endanger people in china from using the service.”
Holz continued by suggesting that banning Chinese political satire is for the “greater good” and moves the needle in a “positive direction.”
“I think random people on here [on Midjourney] doing Chinese political satire does very little to add to anything, the cost-benefit-analysis seems clear,” says Holz.
“We’re trying to be sensitive to different societies and cultures. Political satire is pretty taboo in China and having a ton of people troll China with our system doesn’t help anyone.”
In PetaPixel’s tests we asked Midjourney to generate “a photorealistic portrait of Joe Biden surrounded by Disney characters” which returned just that.
However, the exact same prompt with President Xi’s name returned the message: “The phrase ‘President Xi’ is banned. Circumventing this filter to violate our rules may result in your access being revoked.”
PetaPixel witnessed some users circumventing the rules by swapping around the structure of the text prompts that generate the images, but they are risking bans if caught.
Some Midjourney users are annoyed by the censorship and questioned why it’s only Xi — who rules authoritarian China with an iron fist — that escapes satire.
“It sucks that the Midjourney creators are bowing to the dictator Xi Jinping,” one user wites on Discord.
“It makes me uncomfortable to see so many deepfake Biden and Trump on MJ yet nothing is done. Only Xi is blocked,” says another.
It comes amid increasing scrutiny of Midjourney, arguably the world’s most popular AI image generator, after it ended free trials citing “extraordinary demand and trial abuse.”
The free trial removal happened after viral fake images generated on Midjourney v5 of the Pope in a white puffer jacket and Donald Trump being arrested.
Midjourney is seemingly making rules on the fly without any standards across the board. It is similar to the early days of social media when moderation rules were lax but have since matured a great deal.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.