When Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he was dropping a host of celebrity AI chatbots I was horrified and confused, wondering what that would entail. Well, now I've got my answer, and it's just as weird as I'd anticipated. Behold, Zuck's content farm of fake influencers, adorned with the faces of popular celebrities.
With a host of new AI chatbot accounts popping up on Instagram, users were confused upon seeing recognisable celebrities assuming the personas of these strange AI characters. While some may see harmless fun, I see a total dystopian nightmare. You certainly won't be seeing these creepy AI chatbots in our collection of the best AI productivity tools.
With famous names such as Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, Kendall Jenner, Mr Beast and teen influencer Charlie D'Amelio conscribing to Zuck's AI army, it was initially a little unclear how their likenesses would be utilised for Meta's new chatbots. It turns out that while the chatbots are entirely AI, the social media persona of the characters is acted out by the real celebs, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
In a video shared to the cocosgotmoves Instagram account, D'Amelio assumes the character of a Dancer named Coco, taking us through a "get ready with me" routine. While the video is inoffensive enough, fans were confused by the content, with one user commenting: "Is this char or ai," while another disturbed commenter said: "This is so strange."
The yoursisbillie account uses the likeness of Kendall Jenner, who made a video Introducing herself as the big sister AI persona, Billie. "I am here to chat whenever you want. Message me for any advice," she says – but commenters were reluctant to reach out, with one user claiming: "This makes me never want to use the internet again."
What makes D'Amelio's AI persona so disturbing in comparison to the other celeb chatbots, is her close proximity to the chatbot's character. As a dancer herself, D'Amelio's own public persona is scarily adjacent to her AI likeness – with the potential for the chatbot to be an accessible alternative for D'Amelio's young and impressionable fans to interact with.
As for Jenner's chatbot persona, it certainly feels disturbing to think of young girls conferring with an AI for sisterly advice. While initially, the idea seemed like a harmless novelty affair, the parasocial connection between influencers and fans is already warped by social media. I dread to think how these unhealthy synthetic relationships will intensify when the 'real' celebrity is factored out.
While D&D dungeon master Snoop Dogg and detective Paris Hilton are a little less akin to their actual public personas, integrally it begs the question: why use celebrity likenesses in the first place? Meta's AI chatbots have the advantage of covering a diverse array of interests, giving them a unique edge against other AI chatbots such as Snapchat's My AI, which already proved successful among Gen Z audiences, (without needing to desperately interject a famous face).
While the chatbots are still in the early phase, I can't see them having a lasting impact on Meta users. In the current climate of AI technology, users see it as a tool rather than a friend, and I believe it should remain that way before we write ourselves into an episode of Black Mirror.