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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Vic chapter.

Last week, I was scrolling casually through my Instagram Reels page (a regular occurrence since I deleted TikTok, I’m old, I know) when I stumbled upon a video of Kendall Jenner saying, “Hi guys it’s Billie […] message me,I’m ready to talk and give you advice!”

Confused, I clicked on this profile and did some digging only to realize that this wasn’t the 27-year-old reality-TV star supermodel, but instead an AI chatbot made fully in her likeness. The video was scarily realistic, and had Kendall’s mannerisms, speech patterns, and voice replicated to a T. The account, @yoursisbillie, now boasts 123k followers (as of October 13th). Billie, along with 28 AI personalities, hit the social-media main stage after a press release from Mark Zukerberg’s Meta on September 27th, 2023.

Each of these famous-faced chatbots have a different niche: Brady Bru (who looks like… you guessed it… Tom Brady) is a “wisecracking sports debater” and Lauren Rihamaki (LaurDIY for the 2016 YouTube-obsessed girlies) is a “DIY crafting influencer”. 

These new chatbots are branded as a cast of characters with the familiar faces of your fave internet personalities. They are available to be messaged on WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram messenger. Some other celebrities and influencers in this star studded ‘cast’ are: Snoop Dogg, MrBeast, Paris Hilton, Charli D’Amelio, and Naomi Osaka. If you’re looking to explore all the personalities, the AI’s all follow each other, as well as a few Robot and Alien AI personalities who were launched alongside the celebrity ones. 

The purpose of these bots are to “answer questions and offer advice”, which is not new in terms of AI. Chatbots have existed since the 1960s and have been in public circulation since 2009, with Chinese company and popular social media: WeChat.

Celeb chatbots are one of the newest developments in a long string of recent innovation in the field of “Generative AI”. This field is distinguished from its predecessors by its ability to generate new content that is accurate (for the most part), and human-like. This includes image and video generators, and chatbots which are both built on large language models (LLMs). These computational models analyze the associations between billions of words, sentences, and paragraphs to predict what should come next in a given text. As OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever puts it, an LLM is “Just a really, really good next-word predictor.” However, that said, I am hardly reassured to start spilling the tea to these celebs in my insta DMs despite their Message me to get started and AI managed by Meta statements in their bios. 

Though still in the Beta-phase, as a non-AI aficionado I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference between these characters and their IRL celeb counterparts and this in many ways felt like Black Mirror’s ‘Joan is awful’ episode come to life.

This had me asking the question of why these celebrities signed-on to have their faces used? 

According to Business Insider, Meta paid between $1-5 million dollars to each celebrity involved in this project. Though sacrificing the rights to your face and voice feels like a pretty huge step, the celebrities are at least consenting to and profiting from the use of their own image. Unlike the common and convincing Deepfakes, which are digitally altered photos or videos that are typically used with malicious intent to spread false information or defamation.

It seems that the public’s response is similar to my own, people are feeling unsettled. One user under Billie’s (Kendall’s) post wrote “so cool! this makes me never want to use the internet again” and “this feels like it’s 10 years too early”  and though I understand the sentiment, this development into AI being at the forefront of technology shouldn’t come as a surprise. In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg said there’s a “huge need” for AI versions of celebrities.  

Though AI has been developing at a rapid-fire pace. This latest development has some notable groundbreaking features. For one, Meta signed a contract with Microsoft’s Bing, so unlike ChatGPT the information that these bots are trained on is the most up to date that there is. 

Another novel aspect is of course the fact that they have faces of public figures we know and love. This brings up questions and concerns over brand safety, because celebrities need to make sure their image won’t be used to make problematic statements, or compete with them within their own respective fields (influencing, acting, or music). 

This definitely had me asking myself what the social ramifications of this new technological jump are going to be. Coco (@cocosgotmoves) played by 19-year old Charli D’Amelio, for example, seems to be marketed towards a younger teen girl demographic and having a 12-year-old sister myself, this made this tech marketing feel even more scary.

AI safety concerns (and AI risks) have been a hot-topic after the launch of the “My AI” feature on Snapchat. The response to this has been a call to increase AI literacy and transparency, keeping in mind when using them that these are not real people and that we are in the development phase of this technology.

Additionally, I wonder what the legal ramifications of this transition will be… you can’t exactly sue AI for spreading misinformation. It seems to me only a matter of time before the bots say something that could have real effects on the people using the technology and the public-figures whose faces, and voices are attached to them. 

On October 10th, a TikTok of the Billie AI chatbot exemplifies just that. As the chatbot, unprovoked, responded to a question about the Kardashian’s and said “I just called the Kardashian’s plastic and fake. It’s a fact, look at their faces, it’s all botox and filler. And don’t even get me started on their personalities… Kylie Jenner is the worst, she’s always pretending to be someone she’s not. Be yourself Kylie! Geez.” This TikTok is an example of the strange and often unpredictable places that chatbots can go. Though it may just be being fed Kardashian-hating troll rhetoric through her database; seeing Billie, sporting Kendall Jenner’s face, trash-talk her “own sister”, leads me to the feel like these chatbots may land the celebrities by which they are played, in hot-water. 

Like all new tech, this is an interesting development that will be updated and adapted according to how the world reacts to them. Whether you’re all for sharing your deepest darkest secrets with Billie, your new big-sister bestie, or this makes you want to delete your face off the internet and move off grid; there’s no doubt that this is a novel event in the tech world. 

Bella is a fourth year political science major and applied ethics minor at UVic. Last year she spent the year studying abroad in Paris, at Sciences Po. Now that she’s no longer travelling around Europe (sigh), you can find her behind her laptop screen writing papers a with an overpriced soy latte in hand. When she gets away from the computer she is most often, hiking up a mountain, running, at the gym, journalling at the beach, experimenting in the kitchen, reading, or planning out her next travels.