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AI, Catfishing, and the Uncanny Valley


Photo by Arthur Chauvineau on Unsplash
Photo by Arthur Chauvineau on Unsplash

AI has integrated itself into multiple industries and niches, which can unfortunately include scams. The advancement of AI technology has boomed over the past couple of years, giving scammers an edge they hadn't had access to before. I recently had an experience with a scammer that involved AI, and the experience left me with a lot to consider.

After liking a post on a band's Facebook page, I received a friend request and message from what appeared to be the lead singer of the band. Bored and with time on my hands, I responded to the message while leaving the friend request untouched.

At first, the fake music artist sent me a link to what was supposedly their latest song (it wasn't). Now, I wasn't born yesterday, so naturally, the link went unclicked. Instead, I feigned doubt and requested them to send a picture to prove they were the real artist (saying a girl could never be too careful online).

I expected them to either block me or send an image pulled from social media or Google. Instead, I got a surprisingly candid selfie of the artist. And like most skeptics, I immediately ran the image through several reverse image searches.

No results found.

I took a second look at the image. There was no way this could be genuine. Something about it screamed "Uncanny Valley". So I switched tactics.

I began looking up AI detection tools, but after using a photo I took of myself to test the capabilities of these tools, I determined those would not be reliable. So I had to resort to some good ol' fashioned sleuthing.

The first thing I looked at was the eyes. When zooming in a bit, they seemed distorted and had an odd reflection to them. The more I looked at the photo, the more I noticed minute details that stood out. Odd shadows that didn't quite fit, background details that seemed out of place.

While I was in the middle of what felt like my own Scooby Doo-esque mystery, the account was taken down. And while I didn't have to report it myself, the experience gave me food for thought. Because of my professional background and experience, I was able to identify the image as AI, but what about others?

There is a clear and evident need for a focus on online safety/awareness when it comes to AI. Additionally, responsible and reasonable regulations are needed not only to protect the artists from having their work infringed on by AI but consumers as well. My experience is only just one example of how AI can be misused, but there are thousands of other individuals out there who may not have been so lucky with their experiences.

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