Warnings about AI and toxic beauty myths haunt TikTok’s Bold Glamor filter

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) – The latest sensation from TikTok is a real-time filter called Bold Glamor that flies right past debates about toxic beauty standards on social media and does all it can to give users a makeover.

Silently released to more than a billion users of the app, Bold Glamor convincingly blends a user’s real face with an AI-generated ideal of a supermodel, causing both laughs and alarms.



Millions of posts on TikTok capture the shock of bold glamour’s superpowers, with users marveling at her full lips, well-chiseled chin and fluffy eyebrows worthy of a fashionista.

“It’s the new onslaught of the ‘beauty myth,'” said Kim Johnson, associate professor of nursing at Middle Georgia State University in the United States.

Effects like bold glamor “lead to unhealthy behaviors like over-dieting, comparing 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 instant. It’s powerful,” Gwendolyn Seidman, a professor of psychology at Albright College, said in Psychology Today.

Those who crave social approval, like distressed teenagers, “are not going to like what they see when they turn the filter off, and that’s the problem,” she added.

‘So cool’

But beyond the unsettling bold glam aesthetic, observers are scratching their heads at the technology itself and wondering if the app is an unsung advance in artificial intelligence.

Previous filters superimposed an effect – like Snapchat’s joke lenses – over an on-screen face and were easily recognizable by a sudden movement or hand gestures in front of the image.

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“What’s so cool about it is that you can… take your hand and put it in front of your face and it (still) looks freaking real,” mixed reality artist Luke Hurd explained on TikTok.

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

“This is AI for the masses to change how you look, and that’s getting the attention of so many people,” said Andrew Selepak, a professor of social media at the University of Florida.

TikTok was contacted by AFP and declined to discuss the technology behind the app, leaving a 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 effects help boost “self-expression and creativity.”

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

According to experts, Bold Glamor uses generative AI and follows the same idea as ChatGPT or Dall-E, apps that can produce poetry or art and designs on demand almost instantaneously.

Petr Somol, director of AI research at Gen, a tech security company, said these types of filters have been around for a few years, but the latest version of TikTok is “pretty fine-tuned and well-crafted.”

If Bold Glamor were indeed the latest iteration of generative AI, that would mean the filter was dependent on data gold mines to achieve its ever-perfecting effects.

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

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

Path to ‘Deepfake’

Catfishing, scams, deepfakes: some wonder if cutting-edge filters portend a world where the ability to abuse the technology is now available to anyone with a smartphone.

The latest filters “are not necessarily deep-fake technology as such, but there is a relatively easy path leading in that direction,” Somol said.

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

But “what makes them more dangerous is people understanding that technology could change them to help users evade online identification,” opening up new avenues for abuse, he added. — AFP