Etsy crochet buyers say AI-made images are being used to sell disappointing patterns

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A yarn-woven Garfield, a highland cow and a baby dragon are just some of the cute plush items displayed in the Etsy stores of crochet-pattern merchants. But shoppers at the online store, which specializes in handmade, vintage and unique goods, say the polished final products that appear in the Etsy images aren’t anything like the final products made with the patterns, and that they think the images might be made with artificial intelligence. 

Crochet, a practice of making clothing items, fabrics and collectibles out of yarn, has a thriving community on Etsy. And many enthusiasts, rather than buy the finished product, buy the patterns, which typically range from $2 to $10, that instruct them in crafting the items themselves.

An NBC News search for “crochet patterns” returned more than half a dozen storefronts with crochet pattern product listings that appear to feature dozens of AI-generated images. Etsy broadly allows AI-generated content, to the dismay of some sellers. However, Etsy requires sellers to accurately depict their products in listing photos.

In response to NBC News’ request for comment, Etsy said that its Purchase Protection Program allows buyers to receive refunds for products that don’t accurately reflect what was advertised on the platform. It also said it takes action against sellers who have been the subject of multiple complaints.