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TikTok’s Bold Glamor filter raises warnings about toxic AI and beauty standards


TikTok’s latest sensation is a real-time filter called Bold Glamor that filters past debates about toxic beauty standards on social media, all going so far as to give users a fresh face.

Quietly released to over a billion app users, Bold Glamor convincingly blends a real user’s face with an AI-generated perfect model of a supermodel, drawing both laughter and alertness.

Millions of posts on TikTok capture the shock of Bold Glamor’s superpowers, with users admiring their plump lips, well-sculpted chins, and delicate, fashionista-worthy eyebrows.

It’s the new onslaught of the ‘beauty myth,'” said Kim Johnson, assistant professor of nursing at Central Georgia State University in the US.

Effects like Bold Glamor “lead to unhealthy behaviors such as excessive dieting, comparison, and low self-esteem,” Johnson said.

Filters and effects have been a staple of TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat for years, but the latest generation of features like Bold Glamor are supercharged.

“It’s not subtle. It’s immediate. It’s powerful,” Gwendolyn Seidman, a professor of psychology at Albright College, told Psychology Today.

She added that those who crave social approval, such as teens under stress, “are not going to like what they see when they turn off the filter, and that’s the problem.”

– ‘Very pleasant’ –

But other than Bold Glamor’s unsettling aesthetic, observers are scratching their heads about the technology itself and wondering if the app represents an unknown advance in artificial intelligence.

Previous filters overlaid an effect — like joke lenses on Snapchat — on a face on screen and could easily be distinguished with a sudden movement or by waving your hand in front of the photo.

“The cool thing about this is you can… take your hand and put it in front of your face and it still looks so real,” mixed reality artist Luke Hurd explained on TikTok.

And while the technology used to be available on powerful computers, real-time video filters are now available on smartphones, ready for everyone.

“This is the AI ​​of the crowd to change one’s appearance and that’s what catches a lot of people’s attention,” said Andrew Celebak, a professor of social media at the University of Florida.

Contacted by AFP, TikTok declined to discuss the technology behind the app, leaving an air of mystery as to how Bold Glamor actually works.

The company insisted that “being true to yourself is celebrated and encouraged” on the site and that the effects help enable “self-expression and creativity”.

“We continue to work with expert partners and our community, to help keep TikTok a positive and supportive space for everyone,” TikTok said in a statement.

According to experts, Bold Glamor uses generative AI, following the same idea behind ChatGPT or Dall-E, applications that can produce poems or artwork and designs on demand almost instantly.

This type of filter has been around for two years, but TikTok’s latest version is “very well-tuned and well-implemented,” said Petr Somol, director of AI research at Gen, a technology security company.

Crucially, if Bold Glamor is indeed the latest AI iteration, that means the filter is relying on gold mines of data to deliver its increasingly perfect effects.

The reliance on big data comes as the Chinese-owned company comes under intense scrutiny from the United States and other Western governments that fear the company’s ties to communist authorities in Beijing.

“The question is whether TikTok is really interested in the implications of this shiny new thing,” Selepak said.

– The path to ‘deepfakes’ –

Catfishing, Hoaxes and Deepfakes: Some are wondering if the latest filters point to a world where the ability to misuse technology is now within the reach of anyone with a smartphone.

The latest filters, Somoll said, “are not necessarily deepfakes as such, but there is a relatively direct path running in that direction.”

Siwei Lyu, a professor of computer science at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said it was unlikely that major platforms such as Meta-owned TikTok or Instagram would intentionally provide dangerous tools.

He added that “what makes it more dangerous is that people who understand the technology can alter it to help users evade identification online,” opening up new avenues for abuse.

From smartphones with rotatable screens or liquid cooling, to built-in augmented reality glasses and phones that owners can easily repair, we discuss the best devices we saw at MWC 2023 on the Orbital, Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, and Google Podcasts Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.