The claim: Target is selling satanic-themed apparel
A May 30 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) includes images of apparel and store displays featuring horned figures and satanic imagery inside a major retailer.
“Folks: THIS is TARGET, & that is a Satanist idol,” reads the post. “STOP SHOPPING TARGETS! They are EVIL.”
The post was shared more than 700 times in a week. Other versions of the claim were shared hundreds of additional times.
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Our rating: False
The clothing in the post is not on Target’s website, and the retailer told USA TODAY it has never sold those items. The images were created using artificial intelligence.
Target says it has never sold pictured items
A search for the products on Target’s website returned no matching results, and a spokesperson for the retailer said it has “never sold these items.”
The images first appeared in a May 26 public Facebook post in the group “AI Art Universe” with the caption, “They’re Targeting Our Children.” The user who created the images, Dan Reese, followed up with additional images posted on his own page May 30 that he said were fake and made with the AI image generator Midjourney.
Reese told USA TODAY he used AI to create images amid false claims Target was selling Satanic-themed clothes for children.
“I’m a Satanist myself, so I thought it would be fun to use AI to explore what a satanic-themed fashion line for children could possibly look like,” he said.
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James O’Brien, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the use of AI to spread misinformation has been “leaning up,” and that the technology used to create it has become more sophisticated over the years.
He urged social media users to be skeptical of the content they come across online and cross-check claims with legitimate sources before sharing.
“If you’re not skeptical, people can feed you whatever they want,” he said. “That’s not good for you as an individual, and it’s not good for us as a society.”
The Associated Press, PolitiFact and Reuters also debunked the claim.
USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the post for comment. One user respondent with news articles about Target pulling Pride Month merchandise after backlash, but none referenced the satanic-themed merchandise in the post.
Our fact-check sources:
James O’Brien, June 7, Phone call with USA TODAY
Target, June 7, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Target, accessed June 7, merchandise search
Dan Reese, June 6, Facebook message with USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Images of satanic clothes at Target were created with AI | fact check