AI-Generated Celebrity Deepfakes

Canadian celebrities, including TV chef Mary Berg, singer Michael Bublé, comedian Rick Mercer, and hockey star Sidney Crosby, are revealing their secrets to financial success—until the Bank of Canada tried to stop them.

These ads aren’t true! Bad actors (not the Hollywood kind) are using the names and images of celebrities in AI-created ads. These scammers are using sensationalist posts, like Berg under arrest or Bublé being dragged away, to sell you something.

It all looks real, and if you click through the ad, you end up at an AI-generated article with as many as 225 links on a single page, urging you to sign up and hand over your first investment of $350, which will purportedly increase more than 10x in just seven days. 

Lawyers are warning people that there is little legal recourse if they are taken in by one of these scams; Canadian laws haven’t advanced nearly as rapidly as the technology itself. 

While sometimes there are obvious signs that an image or article was AI-generated, but some of it is getting to be so good it’s much harder to discern what’s real.  Programs are churning out near-perfect photos and videos.

X” has curtailed some of the Canadian celebrity scam ads and suspended some of the accounts that are posting them, but there aren’t many legal obligations to spur social media platforms to remove fraudulent materials.

Taylor Swift has the clout to fight back, though. Sexualized AI-generated images of Swift prompted social media companies to take immediate action. X promptly removed the images and blocked searches for Swift’s name, and within days, U.S. lawmakers tabled a bill to combat such deepfake pornography.

So far, Canada hasn’t followed the U.S.’s lead on new legislation for deepfakes, but there are some torts that can provide damages to people who have suffered wrongdoing. The tort of misappropriation of personality could apply because it’s often a case of someone’s image being digitally manipulated or grafted onto another image. 

Lawsuits can be lucrative, but will likely take a long time and a lot of money. A recent class-action lawsuit against Meta over “Sponsored Stories” (advertisements on Facebook) between 2011 and 2014 that created product endorsements using the names and profile photos of users to promote products without their consent caused Meta to propose a $51-million settlement to users in Canada last month. Lawyers estimate that 4.3 million people could qualify.

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