Misogynistic artificial intelligence (AI); the threat posed by biased but viral magic avatar applications

Warning! The terrifying tale I am about to narrate sounds too dystopian to pose an actual danger. In December 2022, some applications went viral for their "Magic avatars" produced by AI features. In the apps, users pay a nominal fee to obtain digital images of themselves transformed into a variety of quirky styles, from anime to fairy princesses, astronauts, and ferocious warriors. However, the applications have been accused of having an algorithmic tendency to sexualize subjects to an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous degree.

Red flags

The applications have posed a danger to artists who suffer from the AI models using their work without their consent. The AIs take artworks by artists who put forth a lot of effort to build their abilities and use them for a “nonprofit” project without their consent or payment.

Interestingly, in their terms and conditions, most of these applications expressly state that you grant the AI Company a worldwide royalty-free, transferable license to use the user content after uploading a photo. This means you pay these companies to give them rights to your likeness.

Fascinatingly, the applications are more biased toward women and children. The data set in the AIs are skewed toward nude images due to the abundance of barely clothed women online. As a result, AI models sexualize women and children whether or not they wish to be portrayed in that way.

Conclusion

People love to jump on trends without knowing the consequences. However, just like all good things in life, this sounds like harmless fun, but is it? If I have the app, I have the power to upload any woman or child’s photo and view a “Magic Avatar” version of their nudity. Is this the kind of power we would want anyone to poses?

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The Platform for Law, Justice & Society is published by Gitobu Imanyara & Co every month principally to offer a platform for informed and critical discussion of the National Values and Principles set out in Articles 10 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya.

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