Parents are being cautioned against digital influencers created by companies, who look like real people and post pictures of themselves with celebrities. These AI influencers are being considered a threat to children.
According to Internet Matters, an online safety campaign backed by internet service providers and social media companies, young people face a threat from these virtual influencers towards their welfare. With the rise of these ‘pretend’ influencers, companies have been known to use them to their advantage by manipulating youngsters.
Lil Miquela, a fake influencer made by a US company is a ‘singer’ and ‘model’ who has 1.7 million followers on Instagram. Bermuda is another virtual influencer, a music star with 175k followers on Instagram and who has an imaginary relationship with another fake influencer, Blawko. Blawko, has 145k followers with a passion for skateboarding, playing basketball, drinking beer and getting tattoos. These influencers were used to promote brands like Spotify, Fendi and Absolut Vodka.
Psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, an ambassador for Internet Matters said: “The virtual influencer gives brands and corporations the ability to create posts that feature perfect boys and girls who can speak to a large young audience at the click of a button.” She continued, “This potentially allows companies to easily manipulate young people by using live data to create the most influential series of images.”
These influencers call themselves robots but present themselves as human. In a recent post Lil Miquela wrote: “I keep a Spotify list of stuff I’m listening to, but outside of that, I’ve been really into Skee Mask and Nina Kraviz. I found a cool remix of that new Lizzo song I really like the other day. But yeah, the new Billie Eilish and Slayyyter songs are on repeat, too.” This is what the industry calls ‘mixed reality’.
Miquela is seen hanging out backstage with real-life musicians and was even seen holding a sign saying ‘keep abortion legal’ during a political protest.
“This in-between thing can be very difficult for children. A child needs role models but these role models are being created by marketers. They aren’t real and create nothing but attention-seeking. They are grabbing attention and for what? They are not there to educate and empower,” said Linda Papadopoulos. “They are there to engage and they do that by making us feel afraid, angry and insecure. The biggest thing we can do for our kids is get them to think critically, to ask, am I being influenced by an individual or a group? And why?”
Head of influencer at Edelman UK, Philip Trippenbach warned people that, “In a communications environment that has become full of algorithmic communication of outstanding power this is one of the things that parents need to be vigilant of.”