Australia’s Channel Nine apologized after presenting a digitally altered image of Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell. The image had altered not only Purcell’s outfit — but her body as well. Nine News apologised and blamed the situation on “automation by Photoshop,” but Purcell lashed out on social media, and understandably so.
Purcell is the youngest woman in the state of Victoria’s parliament and has frequently spoken out against the sexualization and objectification that women in Australian politics face. This makes it all the more ironic that a news channel doctored an image of her to enlarge her breasts and expose her midriff. The photo was used for a promo for the network’s Monday night news bulletin.
“I endured a lot yesterday,” the politician said on Twitter. “But having my body and outfit photoshopped by a media outlet was not on my bingo card.”
“Note the enlarged boobs and outfit to be made more revealing. Can’t imagine this happening to a male MP. What gives?”
Apparently, Nine News claimed it was a Photoshop error. Melbourne representative Hugh Nailon has “unreservedly” apologised to Ms. Purcell for the “graphic error”, noting that:
“As is common practice, the image was resized to fit our specs. During that process, the automation by Photoshop created an image that was not consistent with the original,” he said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to a tool which uses AI to expand pictures.
“This did not meet the high editorial standards we have.”
But this is not the way AI enhancements really work in Photoshop. In fact, a spokesperson for Adobe (the company behind Photoshop) told the BBC that “Any changes to this image would have required human intervention and approval.”
What has been implicated is an AI “extension” of the image. Modern image-generating AIs have the ability to generate images from scratch, but also expand and continue existing images. This has been a subject of great debate especially regarding the biases that these AIs include — and Purcell’s case is a great example of that.
Beyond this particular case and the obvious problems it caused, it goes to show just how easy it has suddenly become for AI to sneak into the mainstream and cause misinformation. It also highlights the lack of tangible regulation around AI-generated imagery. This isn’t a random person on the internet doctoring another random person — it’s a news outlet with an image of a Member of Parliament.
Purcell is a member of the Animal Justice Party. The party envisions a “planet on which animals and nature have the right to live and thrive free from negative human interference and a human society which functions with kindness and compassion within its ecological limits as a responsible member of the Earth community.” Purcell appeared on Nine to discuss a controversial decision by a state leader to not ban duck hunting.
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