How can I spot a deep fake from the real deal?

Don’t fall for it! As a deep fake photo of Pope Francis wearing a puffer jacket fools the internet, FEMAIL reveals how YOU can tell an AI image from the real deal

  • AI deep fakes are expected to become more prolific and harder to identify  
  • Must read: Is John Pork – a man with an AI pig’s head – the weirdest TikTok hit?  

After a viral deep fake photo of Pope Francis wearing an enormous white puffer jacket went viral and fooled thousands, questions have been raised about how easy it is to create AI images that look just like the real thing.

The image shows the Catholic leader, 86, wearing the flashy item over the top of his robes, along with a traditional white scull cap. 

Its creator, utility worker Pablo Xavier, 31, of Chicago, used MidJourney AI art technology to make the image but said he had no idea it would go viral. 

He told Buzzfeed: ‘I’m trying to figure out ways to make something funny because that’s what I usually try to do. 

‘It just dawned on me: I should do the Pope.’

The images of the Pope were made by Pablo Xavier, 31, a utility worker from Chicago playing around with Midjourney, an AI art tool, while high on mushrooms

The photos are said to have been created using an AI-generated AI (artificial intelligence) image generator called Midjourney

One person responded to the photo on social media, writing: ‘The fact people find a picture of the Pope in a long puffy jacket thrilling is a good indicator AI is going to have a really easy time destroying humanity.’ 

It comes as a leading ‘deep fake’ expert predicts 90 per cent of online content will be generated or created using artificial intelligence by 2025.

The technology takes in billions of images from across the internet, identifying patterns between the photograph and text words that accompany them.

The software then generates the image in the form of a realistic photo or professional painting. 

Nina Schick, author of Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, has predicted an ‘explosion’ of this type of content as we enter ‘this new era of unbelievable entertainment’ where even faces of dead actors could be cloned. 

Speaking on Radio 4 Today recently about the future of AI in Hollywood and beyond, Ms Schick said: ‘I make a prediction that I think that 90 per cent of online content is going to be generated or created by AI by 2025.’ 

Her comments came as viewers described ITVX’s landmark comedy ‘Deep Fake Neighbour Wars’ with a line up of A-listers including Idris Elba, Adele and Harry Kane as ‘worrying’ and ‘creepy’. 

The show features impressionists, with AI ‘deep fake’ technology used to transform them into celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Idris Elba and Adele. 

So, in this ever confusing world, FEMAIL brings you ways to spot a deep fake. 

Melting into its own shadow  

Technology magazine The Verge pointed out that the photo of the Pope has telltale signs of being fake.

The chief sign was what they called ‘the edge of a glasses lens’ – where the outline of the puffer coat seems to transition into its own shadow. 

Bellingcat founder Elliot Higgins show what it would look like if Donald Trump was arrested or running from the police in AI

Deep Fake Neighbour Wars is a new TV series from ITV which features Greta Thunberg using deep fake

One of the fake images showed Trump’s wife Melania screaming after his arrest

It added that often the outlines in deep fake images blur into the background.

And it pointed to a number of other details that gave away the Pope’s image as fake.

These included the hand not quite grasping coffee cup and the crucifix not having the correct angles.

The Verge added that while AI knows the ‘surface of reality,’ it doesn’t know the underlying rules that govern how physical objects interact.


Often the deep fake will focus on the foreground, such as a person. But things can get confused in the background.

Recently, fake images have appeared of former president Donald Trump after he was indicted over alleged payments of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

In the image of President Trump being arrested, the railings in the background are blurred and don’t quite match up. They also appear to be at slightly odd angles. 

In a photo of Melania shouting, the people in the background also appear less than human. 

In another photo of the Pope on a bike, the railings also don’t match up, while in deep fakes of Boris Johnson often the shadows don’t match up.  

Scenes depicting Trump being tackled to the ground by police officers were created using AI technology by Bellingcat journalist Eliot Higgins.

Some of the fake images showed Trump being chased down the street by police officers while his wife Melania screamed. 

Others showed the former president in prison wearing an orange jumpsuit. 

The sequence of images was created using Midjourney v5 artificial intelligence image generators. 


AI typically struggles with hands. For a long time, it did not even know how many fingers each hand had.

In the photo of the Pope holding the coffee cup, his hands are squashed.

And in the deep fake of former president Donald Trump being arrested In Washington DC, the hands also look very suspicious. 

In a Buzzfeed article, Winger-Bearskin, an associate professor of AI at the University of Florida, said AI does not really understand what a ‘hand’ is or how it connects to a human body.

She said that often AI will make realistic humans but with nine fingers on their hands.  

She said: ‘It’s just looking at how hands are represented in the images that it has been trained on.’

As police in New York City and Washington DC prepared for possible unrest in the event of Donald Trump being indicted over allegations he paid hush money to Stormy Daniels, deep fake images emerged appearing to show the former president being arrested – but the hands are a give away 

‘Deep Fake Neighbour Wars’: Spencer Jones, the show’s co-creator, insists the comedy does not deal with serious subjects and makes it clear the figures are not real (pictured: ‘Stormzy’, ‘Harry Kane’)

She added that AI needs to understand what it is to have a human body, how exactly hands are connected to it, and what their constraints are. 

Writing in Science Focus, Peter Bentley, a computer scientist and author based at University College London, said the results were often bizarre.

He said: ‘Because they have just been fed lots and lots of examples of things, it is trying to piece it all together as best as it can.’

Similarly, AI will often produce more teeth in a person’s mouth than is realistic. 

Feet too are often a problem.

However one writer in the American Genius wonders if AI is tricking us into thinking it is not as competent as it actually is.

What are deep fakes?

The technology behind deepfakes was developed in 2014 by Ian Goodfellow, who was the the director of machine learning at Apple’s Special Projects Group and a leader in the field.

The word stems from the collaboration of the terms ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake,’ and is a form of artificial intelligence.

The system studies a target person in pictures and videos, allowing it to capture multiple angles and mimic their behavior and speech patterns.

The technology gained attention during the election season, as many feared developers would use it to undermine political candidates’ reputations.


According to the i newspaper, much of AI revolves around images and is not focused on words. Some AI can work out letters, but many produce incoherent scribbles.    

If an image has lots of text that is accurate and readable, there is a good chance it is not an AI image but a real one.

In a recent deep fake of Prince Harry picking up a McDonald’s bag, the AI produced gibberish when attempted the text.

AI experts point out however that it is possible to add text in to a photo afterwards with Photoshop.

Facial inconsistencies

One of the common signs of deep fakes is that the facial features of the person in the image may not align correctly or may be blurred.

According to Business Today, this is often around the edges of the eyes, face and mouth.

Zoom in on the photo of the Pope and you can see his eyelids merge into his glasses.

The skin between his eyes and ears is also ‘too’ smooth, but in other images you can see crows feet. 

In another deep fake photo of Boris Johnson, the eyes are also a give away. AI doesn’t know that eyes should typically look in the same direction.

Joins and edges

AI can struggle when things overlap or touch each other. Often it does not capture the intricacies of shadows or transitions between bodies and clothing.

But AI companies are making this better all the time – and soon many of these issues may be ironed out. 

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