Kittenfishing 2.0: AI can now generate fake selfies for your dating profile

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Nov 16, 2022 at 09:24 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

They’ve reimagined celebrities as Disney princesses, predicted what our last selfies on Earth would look like, and even fostered a brand new copyright nightmare in the fanart industry. Synonymous with shitposting on Twitter and Discord, AI image generators have long been flooding our feeds—hailed as the future of ‘creative’ content. With the technology recording new features and tools despite its ethical debate, it’s safe to say that generative AI is still in its infant era in 2022.

While Midjourney recently rolled out a remix feature that lets users merge two completely different images—in turn, unleashing a wave of memes that require some serious eye-bleach—a new online service has been gripping dating app users, especially those who are looking to kittenfish the heck out of their matches on Tinder.

PhotoAI and the cult of algorithm selfies

Created by Sebastien Lhomme, PhotoAI essentially requires you to upload ten mediocre selfies in order to generate a bunch of fake photos in different art styles of your choosing. Costing $19 per pack and $5 for additional bundles, you can pick your poison between generating pop art images, creating polaroids, and editing yourself into your favourite movies and memes. Photoshop pranksters could never.

Heck, the website also sports a pack that will plaster your face next to iconic images of public figures. Are you one of those Elon Musk fanbois currently stationed outside Twitter HQ hoping to get a selfie with the problematic Technoking? PhotoAI will get the job done, sans the physical interaction.

Kittenfishing 2.0: AI can now generate fake selfies for your dating profile
Kittenfishing 2.0: AI can now generate fake selfies for your dating profile

Although the sample images provided under each pack on PhotoAI’s website—generated using Lhomme’s selfies—are impressive, to say the least, two bundles in particular stand out among the options. Titled ‘LinkedIn pack’ and ‘Tinder pack’, the bundles claim to generate 30 fake photos of yourself for the platforms in question.

While the former package will conjure images of you in a suit and other business attire with the goal of “saving time and money” instead of going to a “real photo studio,” the latter promises to make you “the best you’ve ever looked.” After a quick scroll through the sample images under the Tinder pack, it seems that the best you’ll ever look is like a crypto bro staring into the abyss with shades on.

Kittenfishing 2.0: AI can now generate fake selfies for your dating profile

After purchasing the pack of your choice and uploading your selfies, the site claims to return results in 12 hours. “You’re only allowed to upload photos of YOURSELF that YOU own the rights to,” the site’s privacy policy reads. “You’re not allowed to upload photos of other people. And photos that you do not own the rights to. You’re not allowed [to] upload naked or pornographic photos. We’re not liable for any results that might hurt you in any way.”

Although there are no legal guidelines governing the ethical use of AI generators, it’s worth noting that DALL·E mini has previously spewed some awfully racist images from text prompts.

“To ensure your privacy and safety, ALL photos you upload are PERMANENTLY deleted within seven days after generating,” the site goes on to add. “The [AI] model trained on your photos is also PERMANENTLY deleted after seven days.” Phew?

The kittenfishing debate

According to Lhomme, PhotoAI works by generating a “fine tune” AI model from the selfies uploaded by users. These results are then filtered through a second model that renders the chosen style before they are fed into Stable Diffusion, an open-source text-to-image generator.

“In other words, you’re not paying for fancy proprietary AI technology, but for a service that simply feeds your photos into a pre-existing AI image generator,” Vice’s Motherboard noted in this regard. “Similar services have cropped up in recent months that, for a fee, will use AI to generate text prompts… which can then, of course, be used to generate photos with AI.”

But the real dilemma arises when such images make their way onto dating apps. While Tinder swiped left on catfishing by deploying AI for profile verifications in 2020, it’s unclear if AI-generated selfies violate the app’s terms of service. At the moment, however, there’s nothing preventing users from uploading fake images of themselves designed by an algorithm at the helm. While dating apps like Bumble seek to revolutionise user experiences by making its nude-detecting AI public to combat cyberflashing on the broader internet, the possibilities of OpenAI seem to be a step back to where we started in terms of impersonation and misrepresentation.

When Motherboard reached out to Lhomme, the creator claimed that he won’t be held responsible for how people use the photos his service generates. He pointed out that, even without the help of AI, humanity has long been leveraging Photoshop or hiring freelancers to morph their pictures.

“The tech is so new, the use cases it will solve over the next few months or years are inevitably going to lead to interesting questions about legality and morality,” Lhomme said. “Things will be blurry for a while, and I think collaboration will need to happen between all the parties involved to decide what are the best rules and responsibilities for everyone to ensure the ethical usage of such technologies.”

Kittenfishing 2.0: AI can now generate fake selfies for your dating profile

Despite this ethical debate, Lhomme suggested that AI-generated images will eventually become ubiquitous. He went on to note that selfies are already digitally manipulated by filters on smartphone cameras, and people are not any wiser.

“Of course, the tech isn’t quite there yet, but it will be soon,” he concluded. “And once the AI-generated photos are indistinguishable from ‘real’ photos, the question of whether they are real or not will become irrelevant.” Maybe the internet should stick to using the AI that roasts people based on their selfies for a tad longer.

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