☕️ Fake future

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July 31, 2022 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop
Parts of a woman's face and body over a computer grid

Ariel Davis

IN THIS ISSUE

The growing threat of deepfakes

TikTok killed the Instagram star

ALU president Christian Smalls

 

VIBE CHECK

 

"If these dogs' story catches your heart, that's great if you're able to get one."—Karina King, who is helping to oversee the rehoming of 4,000 rescued Beagles

"I was hellbent on getting an Ape."—Madonna to Variety (The singer failed to buy the exact Bored Ape she wanted.)

"They ridiculed Jesus, so who among us?"—Chef Pii, creator of the infamous Pink Sauce, to Vice

 

GREAT DEBATE

 

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—Interviews by Sherry Qin

 

GROUP CHAT

 

Instagram won't ever be Instagram again

Instagram won't ever be Instagram again Instagram

It's hard to remember the last time a trend took off on Facebook or Instagram. This summer's hits—Pink Sauce, "jiggle jiggle," and "s/he's a 10"—all came from Gen Z upstart TikTok. And Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has obviously noticed that Gen Z isn't interested, leaving it with an audience of elder millennials, Gen Xers, and even boomers.

Cornered by competition, Meta has made a noticeable and irritating shift to video; Instagram has become a congested feed of suggested content and Reels, which were designed to look like TikTok but lack the platform's uncanny ability to direct the conversation.

Users are increasingly fed up with scrolling through strangers' body transformation pics and gender reveal videos pushed by Instagram's algorithms—including two Instagram VIPs. Both Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner shared the same post on their Instagram stories: "MAKE INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AGAIN," it read, followed by "(stop trying to be tiktok i [sic] just want to see photos of my friends.) SINCERELY, EVERYONE."

It's no surprise that the message criticizing Instagram for moving away from photos to video is coming from two sisters who've built their empire on a foundation of selfies.

Meta can't ignore that anymore. The day after Jenner's post (btw, she's the second-most followed person on Instagram), Instagram head Adam Mosseri sat down and gave an update on the app. He acknowledged that he's heard "a lot of concerns" and admitted that Instagram might not be doing a great job with recommendations. But he doubled down on the pivot to video.

"I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time," Mosseri said in the video on his Instagram account, where he speaks directly to a camera that zooms in and out several times, reminiscent of—you guessed it—TikTok.

It seems people are going to get a second helping of the force-fed content they hate. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that about 15% of content someone sees on their Facebook feed and "a little more than that of their Instagram feed" comes from accounts put there by AI recommendations. "We expect these numbers to more than double by the end of next year," he said.

But on Thursday, Mosseri slightly altered course, saying Instagram will temporarily cut back on recommended posts in users' feeds while it reviews the app's tools for suggesting content.

Instagram's chronological feed of photos is going the way of Valencia-filtered posts: a thing of the past. It might not only be too late for Instagram to become TikTok, but too late for it to become Instagram again, too.

—Amanda Hoover

     
 

REC ROOM

 

This week watch Madam Secretary on Netflix. A political drama descended from The West Wing, the show follows the life of newly appointed Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni). It's an idealistic drama with a hyper-positive point of view, a departure from other political shows like Scandal or House of Cards.

Optimism and politics? In this economy? Trust me, it works.

While the real world is falling apart, it's comforting to turn on the TV to watch competent (and entirely fictional) world leaders handle political crises with integrity—and solve them neatly within the hour. But if politics isn't your thing, Madam Secretary brings the family drama, too. Elizabeth's relationship with her husband (Tim Daly), will make you jealous but, more impressively, Daly somehow makes being a theology professor look like the sexiest job in the world.

—Rohan Anthony

 
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BIG READ

 

Can anything stop deepfake porn?

different parts a women's bodies mapped over a spider web Ariel Davis

Jennifer, a 42-year-old divorcée in North Carolina who retains much of the optimism from her days as a high school cheerleader, prays every morning. She prays for her wellbeing, her home, her friends and family, her dogs, her business, her pastor, her church, and her country. She also prays "for God to clean up my DMs," she said.

Jennifer said she routinely gets direct messages from strangers on the internet who have found pornography where her face has been imposed on another woman without her consent. The porn flags her real name, her home address, and her Instagram account, which is where people DM her.

"It's different guys but they're all the same," Jennifer said. "First he tells me how beautiful and amazing I am and then, as soon as that's out of the way, he asks for pictures or videos. When I tell him I don't have anything like that, he always says, well, do I have an OnlyFans or a Snapchat? Or can I just take a dirty photo right now just for him?"

It's not just on Instagram: Jennifer has found discussion threads about her online among men who trade photos and videos with her face. Commenters on the threads wrote she had a "sex den" and accused her of raping two boys as well as having sex with her dogs. "I would love to f*** this MILFtastic hoe," one commenter wrote. "Her insta says she loves Jesus," wrote another.

Jennifer feels hopeless, like there's nothing that can be done to stop the persistent harassment. She believes she's figured out the core culprit and even told the FBI. But nothing happened, even when the aggressions saw a huge uptick during the pandemic lockdown. "What life can you destroy when these guys don't have a life?" she asked. "All I could do is laugh it off and try to live my life."

Jennifer—who agreed to be interviewed only if she could withhold her last name—is one of the numerous women who have been victims of deepfake porn, machine learning that creates a manipulated image or video that appears real. Deepfakes are a subgenre of synthetic media that includes images, videos, voices, and entire identities that have been manipulated to appear real. They are powerful because people are inclined to believe what they see.

Ninety to 95% of deepfake technology manifests as porn, according to Sensity AI, a research company that has been tracking deepfakes since 2018. And it's overwhelmingly used nonconsensually against women—90%, according to Sensity's estimate.

Affected women are often doubly victimized by deepfake porn: first through its production and second by subsequent extortion. Deepfake creators sometimes offer to destroy the porn for a fee. The FBI logged 18,000 cases in 2021, causing total losses to victims of roughly $14 million; nearly half of the victims were between 20- and 39 years old.

The technology traces its origins to 2017, born in the broey bowels of Reddit. It was immediately used to create deepfake porn videos of celebrities, most infamously one of Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot. Now, accessing the power of deepfake creation is as easy as clicking on an app a few times. And the broader technology isn't slowing down: Amazon announced that Alexa will be able to deepfake anyone's voice after just a minute's worth of audio sampling, the way a documentary recently deepfaked Anthony Bourdain after his death or the way a team of MIT researchers deepfaked a speech then-President Richard Nixon had planned to give if Apollo 11's moon landing went awry.

Soon the Jennifers of the world might have to endure not just the indignity of their faces in porn, but their voices too. And they have little legal recourse.

Continue reading this story on the rapid growth of deepfake porn by Richard Morgan

     
 

Q&A

 

Brew Questionnaire with Christian Smalls

A photograph of Christian Smalls wearing a black hat and red jacket, looking up Getty Images

As the president and founder of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), Christian Smalls is the David to Amazon's Goliath. A former warehouse worker, he was infamously fired by Amazon after organizing a walkout in the early days of the pandemic. He led the ALU to victory in a historic unionization effort at the JFK8 Fulfilment Center on Staten Island, the first Amazon warehouse in the United States to unionize. Since leading the winning union drive, he's met with President Joe Biden and was named one of Time's most influential people of 2022.

What's the best advice you ever received?

That my circle [of friends] would change three to four times.

What's the most embarrassing song you'll admit to liking publicly?

The theme song of Martin.

What fictional person do you wish were real?

Batman.

What real person do you wish were fictional?

Jeff Bezos.

How would you explain TikTok to your great-grandparents?

Short snippets of video collages that you post on the internet so everyone can see.

What always makes you laugh?

The conversations with my friends and my boys.

If you were given a billboard in Times Square, what would you put on it?

RECOGNIZE THE ALU!

—Interview by Sherry Qin


     
 

FROM THE CREW

 

Business education without the BS

Business education without the BS

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BREW'S BEST

 

Happy hour in the metaverse: Zoom fatigue is real and so is the cringe you feel whenever you sign off a meeting by waving (cringing just thinking about it). To shift the vibe, some companies are trying to make the metaverse a place to rebuild employees' connection and camaraderie. [Sidekick]

It's not us, it's them: Who doesn't love a good romance? Influencer couples' engagement rate and analytics are through the roof because we can't resist their very, extremely, not at all staged, real true love. That's why brands love them so much. But what happens to their brand deals when an influencer couple breaks up? [Marketing Brew]

Born in the USA: Demand for American-made products is battling an all too common foe: inflation. A recent Retail Brew/Harris Poll survey found that while consumers want more products produced in the US, there are limits to how much more they'll pay. [Retail Brew]

Bleak but cool: Workers on the frontlines of the climate crisis are the ones who could be suffering the most. To keep their employees safe, some companies are adopting solutions that seemed ripped from the pages of a sci-fi comic, like outfitting them with small wearable thermometers that track their "core body temperature." [HR Brew]

Bobby Flay, cat enthusiast, joined Business Casual to talk about his feline obsession that led to his latest venture, Made by Nacho—a line of cat food and treats. Flay also shared his approach to creating new restaurant concepts while managing a diverse business portfolio, and offered tips for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs. [Business Casual]

The best thing we read this week: Is selling shares in yourself the way of the future? Two brothers are betting that soon, everyone will want to liquidate a portion of themselves. [The New Yorker]

Dominate: Crunch numbers without breaking a sweat when you enroll in the Brew's Business Analytics Accelerator, starting Sept. 6. Good for you and your career—that's what we call a win-win!

 

THE END

 
         

Written by Rohan Anthony, Stassa Edwards, Amanda Hoover, Richard Morgan, Sherry Qin, and Ashwin Rodrigues

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