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AI-generated clone of a Ukrainian blogger advertises Russian goods in China

06.03.2024, 17:56
Olha Loyek. Screenshot by Radio Liberty
Olha Loyek. Screenshot by Radio Liberty

An AI-generated clone of Ukrainian blogger Olha Loyek, 20, has been created to sell Russian goods on Chinese social media, reports Radio Liberty.

Olha Loyek studies cognitive science at the University of Pennsylvania. A few months ago, she started a YouTube channel where she talks about mental health and shares her life philosophy.

Over time, she started receiving messages from her followers who said they had seen her on Chinese social media.

There, she was not Olha Loyek, but a Russian woman who speaks Chinese, loves China and wants to marry a Chinese man. Her name is Natasha, or Anna, or Grace, depending on the social media platform.

"I started running the videos through Google Translate and realised that most of these accounts talked about things like China, Russia, how good the relations between China and Russia are. It's very offensive," says Olha.

The video platforms Douyin and Bilibili have dozens of videos of Loyek's avatar speaking Chinese. Most of these accounts invite viewers to visit online stores to buy purportedly authentic Russian goods.

Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, flagged some of these videos as potentially AI-generated. But it is clear from the comments that many viewers believe they are looking at a real woman.

Loyek stressed that she would never say such things, especially considering that she is from Ukraine, which is at war with Russia.

On Bilibili, China's largest video platform, some AI-generated videos featuring Loyek's face have the HeyGen watermark, indicating that the video was created on the company's website. In one video on Bilibili, a person even uses a clip of Loyek talking to demonstrate how to make a short HeyGen video.

HeyGen is a Los Angeles-based artificial intelligence company that has been operating in China since 2020. It specializes in realistic digital avatars, voice generation and video translation. The technology developed by HeyGen was used in an AI video of Donald Trump and Taylor Swift speaking perfect Chinese, which went viral on Chinese social media in October 2023.

HeyGen's moderation policy prohibits creating avatars that "depict real people, including celebrities or public figures, without express consent."

The avatar company's tutorial video shows that users must submit videos of people who consent to their image being used.

Loyek said that after she and her YouTube followers sent complaints to the Chinese social media platforms, about a dozen accounts impersonating her were taken down.

She also said that she had no plans to leave YouTube or stop posting.

"We need some kind of regulatory framework to understand and prevent things like this," she said.

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