This picture was generated by AI - Featured image

This picture was generated by AI

A bill legalising gay marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in Greece came under fire from the influential Orthodox Church when it was introduced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in January 2024. While the bill was being debated in parliament in February, social media posts shared an image of a “Pregnant Ken” doll as if it were a real toy marketed by Barbie-maker, Mattel. However, the image was taken from a site using artificial intelligence to create pictures of imaginary toys. Mattel confirmed it is not one of its products.

Posts featuring the “Pregnant Ken” appeared on social media as the Greek parliament began debating the bill on February 5.

Facebook posts such as this one on February 6 carried the image of what appears to be a Ken doll with a beard and also the long blond hair associated with Barbie. The doll appears to be pregnant. “DISGRACE IN ALL ITS GLORY,” says the post shared more than 240 times.

Comments suggested that people believed the product was real. “My god, where are heading? The future of our children?” said one. The image was also shared here and in an online article here.

A Cypriot Facebook post from February 7 shared a different image of a similar bearded and pregnant male doll but without blonde hair. “KEN is knocked up! Similar images or messages are everywhere now …,” it said in a long and critical text.

However, the image was created by artificial intelligence.

Screenshots of the false Facebook posts. Images captured on 08/02/2024

AI-generated picture

A reverse image search led us to the same image in an Instagram post from October 2023 (archived here) on an account called The post has the two images of Ken shared on Facebook by Greek and Cypriot accounts. The hashtags in the caption read “#ai, #aitoys, #midjourney (…)”.

Midjourney is one of several easily available generative AI programmes that can create images from prompts in text.

The account describes itself as: “All the products you love, hate and would like to feel nostalgic about. A.I. generated, sadly.” Pictures on the account show other imagined toys, some of them satirical, such as a Barbie as a Bishop or building blocks made of Spam. They all carry hashtags referencing AI.

One way to spot AI-generated pictures is through flaws and distortions. Several are evident in the images of the “Pregnant Ken”, as shown in the screenshots below. For instance, letters and phrases are illegible and the faces of the two smaller dolls are distorted.

Screenshots of the pictures in the Instagram post. Yellow squares and red lines were added by AFP. Images captured: 09/02/2024

The two images have also been flagged as AI generated by the detection tool of the European project, in which AFP is participating. This detector identifies specific traces left by AI image generation programmes.

A comment on one of the posts sharing the image links to a YouTube video of what appears to be a Barbie ad for a “Pregnant Ken” doll. The video is satirical, however, as AFP showed in an investigation in June 2022.

Mattel moves towards greater inclusivity

Asked about the “Pregnant Ken”, a spokeswoman for Mattel, the manufacturer of the Barbie series, told AFP on February 8: “This is not an official Mattel or Barbie product.”

Mattel has in recent years introduced products intended to be more inclusive, moving away from the stereotypical Barbies. These include dolls with different body types, skin colours, or disabilities. In May 2022, it released a transgender doll.

On its website, Mattel writes: “Barbie recognizes the importance of representation and is committed to doing the work to inspire the next generation.”

Greek vote on gay marriage and adoption

When the bill legalising gay marriage and adoptions was announced on January 10, Mitsotakis said it would not extend the right to parenthood to same-sex couples through surrogacy.

The Church of Greece said it “totally opposed” the reform, arguing that it “condemns” children to grow up in an “environment of confusion”.

A protest against the bill drew about 4,000 people in Athens on February 11. Nonetheless, the bill is expected to pass in the final vote on February 15.

Protesters at a demonstration in Athens on February 11, 2024 against a reform legalising same-sex marriage and adoption – ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

In an article in Antivirus magazine, which specializes in LGBTQ+ issues, the Transgender Support Association complained that the draft law made no reference to transgender parentality and did not regulate the legal status of transgender parents and their children after transitioning.

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Fact Check, Society, Technology

Author(s): Théophile BLOUDANIS / AFP Greece

Originally published here.