Image of a woman with machine-like parts created in response to a E&T prompt

Midjourney AI pauses free trials over ‘abuse’ of service

Image credit: Midjourney

The artificial intelligence (AI) generator tool has temporarily stopped its free services due to high demand that overloaded the system.

Research laboratory Midjourney has paused free trials of its image-generation software until a new version of the system can be deployed. 

"Due to a combination of extraordinary demand and trial abuse we are temporarily disabling free trials until we have our next improvements to the system deployed," Midjourney founder David Holz said in a post this week on the company's Discord channel, as reported by The Washington Post. 

The decision was initially believed to be caused by the popularity of deepfake images created with the tool in the last few weeks, including pictures showing former US President Donald Trump getting arrested, Elon Musk walking with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Pope Francis wearing a puffer jacket.

Paid-for accounts are still able to use the service, the organisation has confirmed. 

Despite the controversies surrounding the deepfakes, Holz told The Verge that the free-trial suspension is due to new users overloading the system. 

"We tried turning trials back on again with new safeties for abuse but they didn't seem to be sufficient so we are turning it back off again to maintain the service for everyone else," Holz said.

However, the service has put some new measures in place, banning words such as 'arrested' from being used as prompts to create new images. The tool also does not allow images of certain political leaders, such as China's President Xi Jinping.

Holtz said this decision was made to "minimise the drama" as the company chose to prioritise access to the service in China over allowing satirical content. 

Nonetheless, the new safeguards have not been deemed "sufficient" to prevent misuse during trial periods, and so the company has chosen to keep the service unavailable until improvements can be made. 

The rise in popularity of AI-generation tools such as Midjourney or ChatGPT has raised concerns among activists and experts, leading over 1,300 people - including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak - to call for AI labs to pause all large-scale AI experiments for at least six months, in an open letter issued by the Future of Life Institute. 

The letter claims AI labs are currently locked in an “out-of-control race” to develop and deploy machine-learning systems “that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

In light of this danger,  countries like the UK have begun designing light-touch regulatory frameworks regarding the safe use of AI

Earlier this year, E&T used AI tools to create a cover and editorial for an issue of the magazine. We also used images created by Midjourney AI in response to E&T prompts to a group of art critics and asked them for a professional review.

The paid version of the Midjourney AI tool currently costs $10 (£8) per month. 

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