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Humanist Archives: June 20, 2019, 6:13 a.m. Humanist 33.105 - fake people: avoid the maelstrom of deception?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 105.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2019-06-19 12:31:18+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.101: fake people

Fascinating! But if we are sufficiently woke, can we avoid being sucked
into this maelstrom of deception?
--henry schaffer

On Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 5:26 AM Humanist  wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 101.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2019-06-18 09:52:05+00:00
>         From: Robert A Amsler 
>         Subject: Fake People Story from NYTimes
> There used to be a popular cartoon about using email on the Internet,
> "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog". (see attached idog.jpg)
> Well, it seems "fake news" now has human-level "fake people" created by
> advanced digital imaging technology. Coupled with companies creating a
> social media presence for their brands online, and people gaining
> followers as "influencers" because of video blogging, we could soon have
> concentrated efforts to "design a spokesperson" for influencing people
> online.
> I once predicted banking would experience such a event when computer
> graphics got advanced enough to create synthetic online tellers you
> could talk with. That time is almost here.
> Now, we will need the footnotes to read "Not a real person; spokesperson
> is computer-generated" - R. Amsler
> -----
> [From:
> https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/business/media/miquela-virtual-
> influencer.html?te=1&nl=morning-
> 09d16ab689da®i_id=74018416ion=longRead
> ]
> The New York Times
> Media
> These Influencers Aren't Flesh and Blood, Yet Millions Follow Them
> Image: Balmain commissioned the former fashion photographer
> Cameron-James Wilson to create a "virtual army" of digital models,
> including, from left, Margot, Shudu and Zhi.
> Credit: Balmain
> By Tiffany Hsu
> June 17, 2019
> The kiss between Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa, part of a Calvin Klein
> commercial last month, struck many viewers as unrealistic, even offensive.
> Ms. Hadid, a supermodel, identifies as heterosexual, and the ad sparked
> complaints that Calvin Klein was deceiving customers with a sham lesbian
> encounter. The fashion company apologized for "queerbaiting" after the
> 30-second spot appeared online.
> But Ms. Hadid, at least, is human. Everything about Ms. Sousa, better
> known as Lil Miquela, is manufactured: the straight-cut bangs, the
> Brazilian-Spanish heritage, the bevy of beautiful friends.
> Lil Miquela, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, is a
> computer-generated character. Introduced in 2016 by a Los Angeles
> company backed by Silicon Valley money, she belongs to a growing cadre
> of social media marketers known as virtual influencers.
> Each month, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela's songs on
> Spotify. She has worked with the Italian fashion label Prada, given
> interviews from Coachella and flaunted a tattoo designed by an artist
> who inked Miley Cyrus.
> Until last year, when her creators orchestrated a publicity stunt to
> reveal her provenance, many of her fans assumed she was a
> flesh-and-blood 19-year-old. But Lil Miquela is made of pixels, and she
> was designed to attract follows and likes.
> Her success has raised a question for companies hoping to connect with
> consumers who increasingly spend their leisure time online: Why hire a
> celebrity, a supermodel or even a social media influencer to market your
> product when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?
> That's what the fashion label Balmain did last year when it commissioned
> the British artist Cameron-James Wilson to design a "diverse mix" of
> digital models, including a white woman, a black woman and an Asian
> woman. Other companies have followed Balmain's lead.
> Image: Bella Hadid, left, an influencer on social media, and her digital
> counterpart Miquela Sousa in a Calvin Klein commercial.
> Credit: Calvin Klein
> Human simulations have existed for years. They have dealt cards in Las
> Vegas, made music in the band Gorillaz and lived an approximation of
> real life in the Sims video game. But lately they have become more
> realistic and more engaging.
> Fable Studio, which bills itself as "the virtual beings company,"
> created Lucy, a cartoonish character able to read and respond to
> viewers' reactions in real time. The company says it makes digital
> creations "with whom you can build a two-way emotional relationship."
> Xinhua, the Chinese government's media outlet, introduced a virtual news
> anchor last year, saying it "can work 24 hours a day." Coca-Cola and
> Louis Vuitton have used video game characters in their ads. Soul
> Machines, a company founded by the Oscar-winning digital animator Mark
> Sagar, produced computer-generated teachers that respond to human
> students. Last month, YouPorn got in on the trend with Jedy Vales, an
> avatar who promotes the site and interacts with its users.
> Edward Saatchi, who started Fable, predicted that virtual beings would
> someday supplant digital home assistants and computer operating systems
> from companies like Amazon and Google.
> "Eventually, it will be clear that the line between a Miquela and an
> Alexa is actually very slim," he said.
> Virtual influencers come with an advantage for the companies that use
> them: They are less regulated than their human counterparts. *And the
> people controlling them aren't required to disclose their presence.*
> (bold highlighting mine - RAmsler)
> ****
> Many of the characters advance stereotypes and impossible body-image
> standards. Shudu, a "digital fabrication" that Mr. Wilson modeled on the
> Princess of South Africa Barbie, was called "a white man's digital
> projection of real-life black womanhood" by The New Yorker.
> The Federal Trade Commission acknowledged in a statement that it "hasn't
> yet specifically addressed the use of virtual influencers" but said
> companies using the characters for advertising should ensure that "any
> claims communicated about the product are truthful, not misleading and
> substantiated."
> Image: KFC worked with Generic Versatility to develop the virtual
> version of Colonel Sanders, here promoting Dr Pepper.
> Credit: KFC
> In a way, virtual influencers are not so far removed from their
> real-life predecessors. It's no secret that the humans who promote
> brands on social media often project a version of daily life that is
> shinier and happier than the real thing. But when a brand ambassador's
> very existence is questionable — especially in an environment studded
> with deceptive deepfakes, bots and fraud — what happens to the old
> virtue of truth in advertising?
> Bryan Gold, the chief executive of #Paid, which connects influencers to
> companies, said virtual influencers could lead companies into "a
> dangerous area," adding, "How can consumers trust the message being put
> out there?"
> But the concerns faced by human influencers — maintaining a camera-
> appearance and dealing with online trolls while keeping sponsors happy
> do not apply to beings who never have an off day.
> "That's why brands like working with avatars — they don't have to do
> takes," said Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of Reddit and the
> self-described grandfather of the virtual influencer Qai Qai.
> "Social media, to date, has largely been the domain of real humans being
> fake," Mr. Ohanian added. "But avatars are a future of storytelling."
> KFC recently introduced a new Colonel Sanders on social media. He has a
> dusting of stubble on his jaw, tattooed abs, a silver coif worthy of a
> teen idol and bulging biceps beneath a perpetually unbuttoned white jacket.
> The reimagined fried chicken kingpin — another virtual being —
> designed to spoof the vast ecosystem of influencers, which includes
> nanoinfluencers, kidfluencers and petfluencers. His creators consulted
> an inspiration board plastered with photos of human Instagram
> celebrities to generate the mash-up that became the new Colonel.
> "It was our opportunity to poke a little fun at the advertising world
> that we're a part of," said Steve Kelly, KFC's digital and media
> director. "But the love around virtual influencers is very real."
> Image: The creation of the virtual Colonel.
> Credit: Edelman
> The rising presence of uncannily realistic computer-generated beings in
> ads can be off-putting, however, in a realm where a manipulated video
> can make Nancy Pelosi appear to be slurring her words and the Mona Lisa
> can be "trained" to speak.
> "It's an interesting and dangerous time, seeing the potency of A.I. and
> its ability to fake anything," Mr. Ohanian said.
> Lil Miquela operated for two years before it was revealed that she was
> the product of a secretive company, Brud. Its California business
> registration lists an address in Silver Lake blocked by thick
> vegetation, but workers, who must sign nondisclosure agreements, said
> the company actually operates out of downtown Los Angeles. Brud's public
> relations firm, Huxley, declined multiple interview requests.
> On a public Google Doc that functions as the company's website, Brud
> bills itself as "a transmedia studio that creates digital character
> driven story worlds" and says Lil Miquela is "as real as Rihanna." Its
> "head of compassion," in Brud-speak, is Trevor McFedries, whom Lil
> Miquela has referred to in several posts as a father figure.
> Before co-founding Brud, Mr. McFedries was known as Yung Skeeter, a
> D.J., producer, director and musician who has worked with Katy Perry,
> Steve Aoki, Bad Robot Productions and Spotify. He has helped raise
> millions of dollars in financing from heavyweights like Spark Capital,
> Sequoia Capital and Founders Fund, according to TechCrunch.
> Last summer, Lil Miquela's Instagram account appeared to be hacked by a
> woman named Bermuda, a Trump supporter who accused Lil Miquela of
> "running from the truth." A wild narrative emerged on social media: Lil
> Miquela was a robot built to serve a "literal genius" named Daniel Cain
> before Brud reprogrammed her. "My identity was a choice Brud made in
> order to sell me to brands, to appear ‘woke,'" she wrote in one post.
> The character vowed never to forgive Brud. A few months later, she forgave.
> Fans followed along, rapt.
> The online drama was as engineered as Lil Miquela herself, part of a
> "story line written by Brud," according to Huxley. It echoed "S1m0ne," a
> 2002 film starring Al Pacino as a film director who replaces an
> uncooperative actress with a digital ingénue.
> While virtual influencers are becoming more common, fans have engaged
> less with them than with the average fashion tastemaker online,
> according to data from Captiv8, which connects companies to social media
> influencers.
> "An avatar is basically a mannequin in a shop window," said Nick Cooke,
> a co-founder of the Goat Agency, a marketing firm. "A genuine influencer
> can offer peer-to-peer recommendations."
> There may be hope for the humans yet.
> Correction: June 17, 2019
> An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated the
> order of three digital models created for Balmain. It also misstated the
> name of one of them. From left, they are Margot, Shudu and Zhi, not
> Margot, Xhi and Shudu.
> A version of this article appears in print on June 18, 2019 of the New
> York edition with the headline: 1.6 Million Follow Her Online. She
> Doesn't Exist.
> Read 85 Comments
> Related Coverage:
> A Fake Zuckerberg Video Challenges Facebook's Rules
> June 11, 2019
> Image
> Welcome Our New Fembot Overlords
> July 30, 2018
> Image
> Attachments:
> 190617-Fake-People=00VIRTUAL-INFLUENCERS-hadid-superJumbo.jpg:
> https://dhhumanist.org/att/66867/att00/
> 190617-Fake-People=09a16c1e5e984d6ab51d4c9666c3e402-superJumbo.jpg:
> https://dhhumanist.org/att/66867/att01/
> 190617-Fake-People=3bd2b1ea030441c7be11636cedf93af2-jumbo.jpg:
> https://dhhumanist.org/att/66867/att02/
> 190617-Fake-People=1d408f2f1a964e4cb45800cc46ca7ae4-superJumbo.jpg:
> https://dhhumanist.org/att/66867/att03/
> idog.jpg: https://dhhumanist.org/att/66867/att04/

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