An AI-generated photo trend has swept the internet yet again. This time, social media users are using Epik to submit a photo of themselves to be turned into a number of different aesthetic styles popular throughout the 1990s. Epik offers 60 different images of a person using eight to 12 of their submitted selfies, and is free to download. However, it costs between $5.99 to $9.99 to access the finished product.
At first, the platform captivated the attention of TikTok, where digital creators like Bretman Rock and Hila Klein hopped on the trend. It then expanded much further, reaching actors and actresses like Keke Palmer and Cierra Ramirez. What began as a lighthearted trend quickly sparked a discussion on the ethics of AI. Given the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike and recently ended WGA strike, some felt that actors participating in AI trends appears unethical.
The era of streaming services for television and film has not only changed the viewing experience for consumers, but the pay for actors, writers, directors, and crew members. SAG-AFTRA supports all of the WGA’s demands, and have several of their own.
Chief among the SAG-AFTRA demands are ownership of actors’ own likeness, as several studios have threatened to utilize AI generated versions of them in projects even after their death without the permission of their respective estates. Additionally, SAG is striking for increased minimum pay rates, increased streaming residuals to match the rising inflation costs, and improved working conditions.
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Social Media Reactions To AI Yearbookgate
The ethics of AI continue to come into question in a number of ways. Chat GPT can now generate scripts and essays, voice generator programs can mimic musicians, and visual programs can copy real faces and real artist’ styles. This has already raised issues with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, higher education institutions, and several crimes of revenge porn. The importance of human workers continues to be fought for, while technology aficionados continue to hone regulation on the new and rapidly growing tech.
Some SAG-AFTRA actors are continuing to defend the seemingly harmless 1990s yearbook trend, while others listened to feedback and removed their posts, Ramirez included.
sag actors are really out here doing that AI yearbook trend. you dumb dumbs do you not know what time it is?
— Vincent Martella (@vince_martella) October 5, 2023
not SAG actors doing the AI yearbook trend… babe
— danielle weisberg for hire (@danielleweisber) October 4, 2023
Many feel that all actors need to stay out of AI trends throughout the strike, so as to allow their points to truly stick with major film studios.
it’s SO hypocritical cause wasn’t you complaining about this 2 months ago??? make it make sense
— mmat (@NecibEMN) October 4, 2023
Elsewhere, some urge people to stop participating in viral AI trends, alleging that some applications keep personal data and use it to train the technology further.
NBC reported that a spokesperson for SNOW Corporation, the parent company of Epik, stated “The EPIK app does not store any personal information, including selfies, that is used to create AI yearbook results.”
The SAG-AFTRA strike remains ongoing, and the union recently confirmed that they are yet to meet with the AMTP.