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A digital creator used generative artificial intelligence to create images of occult-themed merchandise and store displays at the retailer Target.
The images were created to "mock" people who boycotted the store, believing it was selling satanic clothing, the creator said in a Facebook comment.
In some social media circles, the retail chain Target has been possessed by the devil — and wants to drag your children to hell with it.
In June, we investigated social media claims that Target was selling childrens’ clothing with satanic imagery. We found that the images shared in those posts were made using generative artificial intelligence, which became wildly popular in 2022 when it became more accessible to millions of people.
Another recent claim shared more spooky images of occult-themed clothes at Target, and store displays featuring giant goat-headed creatures, and red — lots of red.
"What I’m about to show you guys is pretty disturbing. So it looks like Target is at it again," said a man narrating a June 12 TikTok video. "More of their evil agenda trying to be pushed on our little kids."
After alluding to past efforts to boycott Target, he said, "check out these pictures … of what Target has in store for our little children."
TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)
The video shares several images, some with dead-eyed children dressed in devilish attire, others with store displays of giant, goat-headed creatures.
As always with images shared online, the devil is in the details.
If you look closely at the photos, you can see many items on the store shelves in the background that have no identifiable brand packaging or distinguishable features. Many of the children in the images lack full sets of fingers on their hands. These are among the signs experts say you can use to spot AI-generated images.
Although those details were enough to be suspicious of these images, we did a reverse-image search that led us to a May 27 Facebook post by an account named The Pumpkin Empress.
The post shared the same images seen in the TikTok video and describes them as "2023 Spring Target New Store line. Ai pics: by yours truly, feel free to fall for it."
We reached out to that account for comment but didn’t immediately hear back. But it’s clear in a reply to another user’s comment on the Facebook post that the creator’s intent was to lampoon people boycotting Target over its supposed satanic tendencies.
"No one is mocking your God. It’s a mockery of the people who ‘heard’ Target had a satanist designing stuff for them and flipped out and boycotted the store," the Pumpkin Empress comment read. "Like, this is really what they think Target was looking like? There was nothing satanic even in the stores, just Pride stuff for PRIDE month. I’m mocking the sheep and I must say - it hasn’t disappointed."
The Facebook page describes the person behind the account as a digital creator. The Pumpkin Empress was also identified in previous fact-checks in Spanish by PolitiFact and by The Associated Press for earlier AI-generated images depicting a Baphomet Book Club at school libraries for children.
Those images also fooled some other social media users and were presented as real in several posts, but the creator said in a May 8 Facebook post they were generated using Midjourney, a text-to-photo generator.
The New York Times used one Pumpkin Empress image and identified the artist as Holly Alvarez in an interactive story about how to spot AI-generated images.
In fall, as Halloween approaches, you may see some spooky displays or themed clothing for sale at your local Target. But the retailer is not filling the aisles with satanic-themed clothing and displays to target children, as a TikTok video claims. Those images were generated by an artist using AI. The claim is False.
The Pumpkin Empress, Facebook post, May 27, 2023
The Pumpkin Empress, Facebook post, May 8, 2023
The Pumpkin Empress, Facebook post, May 2, 2023
PolitiFact, "Target is not selling children’s clothes with satanic imagery. Photos are AI-generated," June 6, 2023
PolitiFact, "No, Target is not selling ‘tuck-friendly’ swimwear for kids," May 23, 2023
PolitiFact, "What is generative AI and why is it suddenly everywhere? Here’s how it works," June 19, 2023
Vox, "Target giving in to conservative pressure on Pride is not a great sign," May 25, 2023
Target, "Target Statement on 2023 Pride Collection," May 24, 2023
The New York Times, "How Easy Is It to Fool A.I.-Detection Tools?," June 28, 2023
The Associated Press, "AI-generated images of satanic kids’ event misrepresented as real," May 8, 2023
The Washington Post, "How to spot the Trump and Pope AI fakes," March 31, 2023
Discover Magazine, "4 Ways to Spot AI Generated Photos," April 19, 2023
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