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AI vs. Human Influencers: The Battle for Social Media Dominance

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Social media influencers have embraced artificial intelligence to spice up their content but they are also facing growing competition from AI-generated Instagramers, TikTokers and YouTubers.

Sporting pink hair and posing in lingerie, swimsuits or gym outfits, Aitana Lopez has more than 300,000 followers on Instagram where she is described as a “gamer at heart” and “fitness lover” — except she’s not real.

Aitana was created by The Clueless, a Barcelona-based company that describes itself as an “AI modeling agency” run by “visionaries on a mission to redefine the world of influencers”.

Sofia Novales, project manager at The Clueless, said the “rising costs associated with human influencers” was a reason behind the company’s creation.

“Virtual models, being digital, present a more economical alternative,” Novales said.

Another plus: total control over content.

“The advantages lie in unparalleled creative control, allowing seamless decision-making on image, fashion, and aesthetics without the need for physical photoshoots,” Novales said.

The rise of AI has fuelled concerns about the proliferation of deepfake videos that could be used maliciously.

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, said Friday it would start putting “Made with AI labels” on AI-generated content in May.

AI presents a huge business opportunity for content creators: The influencer market is expected to grow rapidly, from $16.5 billion in 2022 to nearly $200 billion by 2032, according to Allied Market Research.

 

Younger audience –

Using virtual influencers is not new: Barbie already has millions of followers on Instagram.

But they are now being used in advertisements where they can’t be told apart from a real person.

Take Lil Miquela, a “19-year-old Robot living in LA” created by a California agency in 2016.

With 2.6 million followers on Instagram and 3.5 million on TikTok, Lil Maqueta has promoted brands as big as BMW.

The idea was to “create something never seen before,” the German premium carmaker said in a statement to AFP.

“Attracting a younger, technology-savvy generation is for us the icing on the cake,” it said.

Maud Lejeune, who heads up the Paris-based digital strategy agency AD Crew, said that it isn’t difficult for the public to accept AI influencers.

“It’s like actors on TV: we know it isn’t real yet we follow them and we find it interesting, it’s like watching a mini-series.”

AD Crew represents more than 30 influencers, but Lejeune created her own virtual influencer, Metagaya, two years ago.

“The current level of design didn’t exist then. It’s technical, you’ve got to dress them, take photos for the background, create a story,” said Lejeune, acknowledging that Metagaya didn’t turn out very well.

The rapid technological progress brought by the likes of OpenAI’s Sora video generator could make it easier to create and operate realistic virtual influencers.

 

Deepfakes –

Human influencers are also seizing on AI technology to make better videos.

France’s Charles Sterlings sees an opportunity to improve translations.
He uses different tools on platforms like HeyGen and Rask.ai to automatically translate and lip-sync his video posts into English and Spanish.

Sterlings also uses Deepshot, a platform that allows users to create deepfakes by changing the words and mouth movement of people in real videos.

He said it took him just a few minutes and a few dollars to manipulate a video of French President Emmanuel Macron.

But Sterlings sees the technology as a competitor as well as a useful tool.

“Anyone with a phone can be an influencer. But eventually, it will be artificial intelligence, available 24 hours a day, and much cheaper to develop,” he said.

For Maud Lejeune, AI can help influencers produce more content.

“It’s tough to put yourself in front of the camera for a long time and certain creators burn out… Maybe AI will provide a new way to create without exposing oneself,” she said.

The Clueless has no qualms about its AI models taking away business from real influencers.

“We don’t foresee real models becoming obsolete or replaced by AI-generated models like Aitana,” said Novales. “In our view, they can coexist as another competition of the industry.”

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Economy

Tesla shareholders voting yes for Musk’s $56 bln pay package, CEO says on X

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Tesla shareholders are voting to approve a $56 billion pay package for Elon Musk and to move the electric vehicle maker’s legal home to Texas, Musk said on social media platform X on Wednesday, adding that passage was by wide margins.

Shareholders of the electric-car maker are voting on a proposal to ratify CEO Musk’s 2018 incentive package, valued at up to $56 billion at the time and the largest in US corporate history, after a Delaware judge voided the plan approved by its board “beholden” to Musk.

The result will be announced at a meeting on Thursday.

A person familiar with the preliminary tally confirmed Musk’s post, and said that a combination of big institutional investors and retail investor got the ‘yes’ result over the line.

Shareholders, however, are allowed to change their vote up to the start of the annual meeting.

Tesla shareholders also cast ballots on other proposals including the move of Tesla’s legal headquarters from Delaware to Texas, as well as the re-election of two board members: Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk and James Murdoch.

Musk referred to the resolutions on his pay package and the move in his tweet, thanking shareholders for their support.

Some investors viewed the vote on Musk’s pay as a test of confidence in his leadership. While he is undoubtedly Tesla’s driving force, and is credited with much of its success, the company has recently seen slowing sales and profits.

The board said the world’s richest person deserves the package, because he hit all the ambitious targets on market value, revenue and profitability.

The pay package is also needed to keep Musk devoted to Tesla, the board said, even though the Delaware judge said the 2018 pay plan failed to make sure that Musk committed a substantial amount of time to Tesla.

Musk has threatened to build AI and robotics products outside Tesla, if he fails to gain enough voting control, which requires the 2018 pay package to be approved.

Some large shareholders including Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and California’s two largest pension funds have said they will vote against the compensation, saying the pay is excessive.

Tesla has been drumming up support for Musk’s pay package, especially from retail investors, who make up an unusually high percentage of its ownership base but who often do not vote.

Company executives have posted messages on X, saying Musk is critical to Tesla’s success. Tesla has run social media ads, and Musk has promised a personal tour of Tesla’s factory in Texas to some shareholders who cast votes.

COURT BATTLE

The same package was previously rejected by a Delaware judge who invalidated it as an “unfathomable sum” granted by a conflicted board with close personal and financial ties to its top executive.

The board held the shareholder vote as a way to bolster its appeal of the ruling, in which the judge cited the board’s failure to fully inform shareholders before approving the pay package in 2018.

Musk has to wait months or years to get his pay package restored as appeals wind their way up to Delaware’s Supreme Court.

Tesla could also face more litigation from some shareholders. One of them this month filed a lawsuit challenging the upcoming shareholder vote on Musk’s pay package and the change of domicile.

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Fire in Mangaf Workers’ Accommodation Claims 41 Lives

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A devastating fire broke out early Wednesday in a building housing workers in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, resulting in the deaths of at least 41 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah.

During his visit to the site, Sheikh Fahad, who also oversees the interior and defense ministries, criticized real estate owners for their violations and greed, attributing these factors to the tragic incident.

“Unfortunately, the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters,” Sheikh Fahad stated.

The blaze was reported to authorities at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), according to Major General Eid Rashed Hamad.

“The building was used to house a large number of workers. Dozens were rescued, but sadly, many succumbed to smoke inhalation,” a senior police commander informed state television.

He further emphasized the longstanding warnings against overcrowding in worker accommodations, though he did not specify the workers’ occupations or nationalities.

The fire has been contained, and authorities are currently investigating its cause, officials said.

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Baltimore shipping lane fully reopens after bridge collapse

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The Baltimore shipping lane blocked for more than two months after a cargo ship collided with a major bridge in
March, sending it crashing into the water, fully reopened on Monday, authorities said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with Navy salvage divers, restored the channel to its original dimensions by removing about 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The riverbed was certified as safe for transit on Monday.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

On March 26, the Singapore-flagged M/V Dali lost power and plowed into a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident along with the FBI, has said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The Dali was refloated last month and towed back into port.

The port of Baltimore is one of America’s busiest ports and a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year — more than any other US port, according to state figures.

The full reopening of the shipping channel will allow for two-way traffic, Monday’s statement said.

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