An online campaign sponsored by ParentsTogether , a non-profit that reports on issues that affect children and parents, has received thousands of signatures.
An AI influencer is a digital entity created using machine learning and algorithms. In 2024, completely autonomous AI influencers are still not commonplace, with most relying on human input to some degree. However generative AI-based models can learn algorithms on their own to create new content, indicating that, at some point in the future, AI, personalities may be entirely autonomous.
The petition from ParentsTogether, which specifically targeted TikTok, focused on the broader implications of Artificial Intelligence influencers and also called out the companies behind these AI personas.
“AI Influencer accounts are all over the FYP, posing as real people who post perfect makeup selfies, trips to exotic locales, and workout routines that supposedly achieve perfect bodies. But these “influencers” are generated by artificial intelligence, making the companies who create them thousands of dollars per post with little incentive to label their profitable accounts as AI.”
The petition by the non-profit outlines concerns that AI influencers contribute to harming healthy body image in children by promoting unrealistic standards. “AI Influencers expose kids to unattainable and unhealthy body and beauty standards, which can lower self-esteem and lead to unhealthy behaviors. Stop allowing AI Influencer companies to use your platform to hurt and make money off of our children!” the letter to Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, concludes.
ParentsTogether cited a study in which nearly half (46%) of adolescents aged 13–17 said social media makes them feel worse.
Regulatory bodies have not yet come to a consensus on how to regulate global AI organizations, and given the complexity of the task, clear regulation may not come any time soon. Nonetheless, the EU the European Union (EU) took the first step in establishing the world’s first comprehensive AI regulation, the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA), which aims to provide guardrails for general Artificial Intelligence systems.
The number of AI influencers is unclear, but given this is a relatively new development, the challenges of finding and labeling these accounts on TikTok and other social channels further confuse this matter.
Miquela Sousa, better known as @lilmiquela, is considered one of the first AI influencers on Instagram. With over 2.6 million followers, she has partnered with many fashion brands including Prada and Calvin Klein. The ‘original’ AI influencer also has a Twitter account.
The rise of AI influencers is not solely a reflection of rapidly developing AI technology but is also a response to the demand for unique online content. AI-generated influencers offer social platforms new forms of advertising, unique content, and novel ways to integrate emerging technology with their brand.
In an update provided by ParentsTogether, TikTok has since removed some of the accounts highlighted in the campaign, however, has not yet implemented any changes in policy around labeling influencers on their platform.