For a look at the AI-generated misery rapidly accelerating on our screens thanks to developments in synthetic media fueling increasingly sophisticated forms of deception, check out this extract of British consumer finance champion Martin Lewis apparently shilling an investment opportunity backed by Elon Musk.
Except of course that the footage (also embedded in the tweet below) is an AI-generated deepfake and the investment opportunity is a scam not backed by Lewis (or Musk). The former is also keen on never appearing in ads to endorse third-party products or services, not that this stops scammers from repeatedly hijacking his image for social media ads to try to trick people into part with their money…
Per Lewis, who was interviewed about the deepfake on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB), the video of him shilling an investment scam circulated on Facebook. And boy is he livid about it – given he’s already bothered to sue the tech giant for inaction over fraudulent ads bearing his likeness, launching a defamation lawsuit in 2018 in a bid to use his fame to shame the tech giant into doing something to stop the scammers.
“It’s been circulating on Facebook right now,” Lewis said of the deepfake video. “As far as I know, this is the first deep scam advertisement we’ve seen. It’s definitely the first with me. It’s an absolutely terrifying development. It’s still only the early stages of the technology and they will only get better.
“I’m viscerally angry about this,” he added. “People will know that I have campaigned for years for proper regulation of fraudulent advertisements.”
Lewis settled his defamation lawsuit against Facebook in 2019 after agreeing to make some changes to how it works, saying it would offer a report ads button to UK users to make it easier for them to report questionable ads. He has also pledged to provide funding worth £3million to help set up a Citizens Advice Scam service.
But of course, it’s a drop in the ocean of money that the British regularly lose to scammers. (Last year, losses to UK consumers and businesses from fraud and financial scams hit a record £1.3 billion.)
It’s also a drop in the ocean of revenue from Facebook’s parent company, Meta (revenues in the year 2022 were $116.61 billion), which it generates by selling access to tools. behavioral ad targeting that are powered by its ubiquitous tracking and profiling of web users. .
Meta’s ad tools essentially do the heavy lifting for the crooks behind ads like the Lewis deepfake – because once crooks have crafted an attractive misleading message, they can plug it directly into large-scale ad targeting tools. scale it offers to ensure the scam lands in the feeds of the users most likely (and vulnerable) to be duped by it, leveraging Meta’s ongoing mass surveillance of internet users to achieve new victims.
Asked about a response to the deepfake, a spokesperson for Meta told TechCrunch they are investigating.
The company also sent us this statement — saying:
We do not allow this type of advertising on our platforms and the original video has been proactively removed by our teams, we have also removed a number of copycat advertisements using the same images.
However, Meta didn’t provide a straight answer when we asked how he enabled another scam bearing the explicit taste of Lewis – although, this time, the fake moves and speeches in a voice that sounds remarkably to the real deal – be uploaded to its platform.
While Facebook/Meta is directly named and humiliated by Lewis, the consumer champion is also angry at the UK government for failing to tackle the issue of fraudulent ads.
In the interview with GMB, he denounced the lack of response from the government after two consultations on online advertisements. And while the Online Safety Bill was expanded to cover fraudulent ads last year, following Lewis’s campaign, he also attacked the length of time it takes to pass the legislation, the bill still making its way through Parliament – leaving UK web users at the mercy of coy enforcement by ad platforms of their own UGC in the meantime.
“We still have an absolute Wild West on social media and other Big Tech advertising platforms that allows scammers to get away with it with impunity,” Lewis warned, adding, “What I want everyone to remember, that’s every time you see one of these ads one of the Big Tech companies is paid to promote this ad. And these destroy vulnerable people – and the lives of many non-vulnerable people. »