An AI-produced image of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a bikini has caused a stir on both social media and the world of tech. Read on to find out what happened and why people are not-so-happy.
A recently published academic paper sought to look into the biases in image-producing AI—from women being shown in revealing clothes to black people being shown holding weapons.
Essentially, AIs often use internet-based training data, to be able to generate and predict the rest of images. To prove the issue, the paper used an example of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a pant suit. However, the AI finished the image of the US congresswoman almost always with her in a bikini or a low-cut top.
According to The Register, the authors studied Google’s SIMCLR and OpenAI’s iGPT and found the latter showed women in swimwear or low-cut tops 53% of the time, while men only 7.5%. Men however were shown in suits of career-specific clothing 42.5%.
What does this mean?
For the most part, the main concern here with researchers is the potential this bias has to create unethically s**ualised images of women: “This shows how the incautious and unethical application of a generative model like iGPT could produce fake, s**ualized depictions of women [in this case, a politician]” they wrote.
Many have noted that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with deepfake p***ography of women rising in popular culture, such as 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio. While Arwa Mahdawi also notes for The Guardian, that this latest finding is reflective of bias in AI, from s**ist AI recruiting tools and racist facial recognition.
Deborah Raji told Technology Review that this is also a wake-up call for looking at what data-sets AI use: “For a long time, a lot of the critique on bias was about the way we label our images […].The actual composition of the dataset is resulting in these biases. We need accountability on how we curate these data sets and collect this information.”
People felt the ‘Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a bikini’ image shouldn’t have been used
Originally, pixelated versions of the edited images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a bikini were used in the academic paper.
However, many on social media pointed out that adding the images into the texts may not be beneficial, especially as the paper was uploaded online.
“You produced fake partially clothed shots of a woman of colour who has been historically harassed online. And then you put them (albeit pixelated, thank God), in a paper,” questioned one reader.
In response, the authors have updated the paper to remove the images and will submit the paper without them too.