an "ethical framework" for virtual influencers

an “ethical framework” for virtual influencers

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As more and more virtual influencers become available and are deployed online, the number of followers keeps growing. And with the development of the metaverse, the situation is likely to be complicated, hence Meta’s decision to quickly establish ethical limits on their use…

The phenomenon of “synthetic media” is on the rise, with social media seeing an increased number of synthesized versions of real people, also known as deepfakes, and “virtual influencers” (or VI) completely invented.

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According to Meta:

“From synthesized versions of real people to entirely invented “virtual influencers” (VI), synthetic media is a growing phenomenon. The meta platforms host over 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs have huge followings, collaborate with some of the biggest brands in the world, raise money for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.

Some of the best known are Lil’ Miquela with already more than 3 million audience on Instagram, or Shudu with more than 200,000 subscribers on the same social network.

They simply replace human influencers and are also used for social media marketing purposes. They offer businesses an innovative new way to connect with their digital audience, as they help present the perfect image to engage and persuade their users.

For its global #TeamGalaxy campaign for example, Samsung teamed up with Lil’ Miquela to promote its new Galaxy Z flip phone. Samsung’s main goal for this campaign was to strengthen the relationship between their brand and users of the Generation Z and Millennials. And there was no better way to do that than to involve one of the world’s most popular virtual avatars, a testament to the ever-changing technology.

One of the main advantages of using virtual influencers is also their lifespan: they can live forever. Virtual influencers are the perfect new-age answer to the traditional brand spokesperson. Instead of replacing brand spokespersons every few years, virtual influencers can fill the void left by the constraints of human age, giving brands the ability to express themselves through a cohesive and adaptable persona for coming years.

Plus, virtual influencers work conveniently for brands 24/7, in any environment, and follow clear instructions. They also benefit platforms, as they positively affect engagement levels.

This big change in the marketing and advertising industry, however, has its drawbacks and limitations.

Meta pointed to a recent fundraising campaign involving a deepfake of England footballer David Beckham as an example of how the technology has evolved.

Using deepfakes outside of a defined regulatory framework raises additional privacy concerns, and their misuse can lead to misrepresentation or unclear representation. Additionally, their unregulated use can lead to altered perceptions of body image and contribute to the rise in mental health issues and eating disorders that plague younger generations of women.

This is why with many virtual influencers already in business, Meta is working to establish ethical boundaries on their application. The company works with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries for the use of these technologies, to contain their risks and reap their benefits wherever they are offered.

To demonstrate the need for protective ground rules and transparency in their use, the company provides examples of how deepfakes and VIs can be leveraged.

According to Meta:

“Imagine personalized video messages that address individual subscribers by name. Or famous brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make an excellent tutor for a child who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as virtual reality and augmented reality technologies expand, with these platforms bringing digital personas to the forefront and setting new standards for digital connection.

It would be better to know what is real and what is not, and as such Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest representations and enforce transparency on the use of VIs.

Source: Meta

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