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The photos of children participating in satanic rituals at school were created by generative artificial intelligence.
The After School Satan Club, organized by The Satanic Temple, hosted a meeting at a public elementary school in Virginia. But these AI-generated photos do not show the club or real children.
Photos of children participating in satanic rituals at schools are circulating on social media. But don’t let certain devilish depictions fool you.
A July 19 Facebook reel claimed an elementary school in Virginia started "an after-school program about Satanism." The video shows multiple photos of this supposed satanic school club. In two photos, children are seated around a pentagram in a library. In other photos, children are wearing what looks like satanic clothing. In another, children are sitting in front of a devil-like creature with large horns and claws.
"The Bible says that in the last days before Jesus comes again, people will call what is evil good and what is good evil," the person in the reel says.
This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The photos shown in the post are not real. They were created with generative artificial intelligence, which has become wildly popular now that it is accessible to more people.
If you look closely at the photos, there’s a lack of identifiable brands or distinguishable features that would clue viewers into what school this is or where this takes place. Also, some children in the photos have blurry faces or lack full sets of fingers on their hands. These are among the signs experts say you can use to spot AI-generated images.
The creator of these photos, The Pumpkin Express, also put a watermark on the images, which can be seen in the Facebook reel. The creator said in a May 2 Facebook post that the photos were not real and were made with an AI software. "The children are not real, this never happened," the post said.
PolitiFact debunked a similar claim about these photos in Spanish.
This creator also used AI to make images of occult-themed clothes at Target, which we fact-checked when they were shared out of context.
In a May 8 Facebook post, The Pumpkin Express reiterated that the photos of children doing satanic rituals at school were AI-generated. "No, these are not pics actually taken. They were generated just in fun," the post said. "This is not the satanic book club in Pennsylvania or wherever that was approved. This is not Satancon. I’m not a satanist."
In February, the After School Satan Club held its first meeting at B.M. Williams Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia. The club was organized by The Satanic Temple, which says its objective is to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice and undertake noble pursuits."
According to the group’s website, the After School Satan Club is "not interested in converting children to Satanism," but in providing "a safe and inclusive alternative" to religious clubs at public schools.
Students involved in the club make toys for animals in shelters, write letters to children in hospitals and play educational games, Lisabeth Burkhardt, The Satanic Temple’s assistant to executive ministry, told PolitiFact in May.
"The AI images have no resemblance to anything at SatanCon or The Satanic Temple at large and certainly not our after-school program," Burkhardt said. "We do not believe in the existence of Satan, and we do not champion evil."
We rate the claim that these photos depict children participating in satanic rituals at school False.
Facebook reel, July 19, 2023
PolitiFact, "No, estas fotos no muestran a ‘satanistas’ adoctrinando a niños en bibliotecas," May 10, 2023
PolitiFact, "The devil’s not in the details; occult images of Target are AI-generated," July 18, 2023
PolitiFact, "What is generative AI and why is it suddenly everywhere? Here’s how it works," June 19, 2023
The Pumpkin Express, Facebook post, May 2, 2023
The Pumpkin Express, Facebook post, May 8, 2023
The Satanic Temple website, accessed July 21, 2023
The Satanic Temple, After School Satan Club, accessed July 21, 2023
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, "After School Satan Club holds first meeting at Chesapeake Public School," Feb. 16, 2023
The Virginian-Pilot, "‘Satan Club’ meeting at Chesapeake elementary school causes a stir, but it’s not what you think," Dec. 2, 2022
The Associated Press, "AI-generated images of satanic kids’ event misrepresented as real | AP News," May 8, 2023
AFP Fact-Check, "AI-generated images can fool people. Here are tips to identify them," March 27, 2023
The Washington Post, "How to avoid falling for misinformation, fake AI images on social media," May 22, 2023
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