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Voices: AI ‘influencers’ are destroying women’s self-image – and it’s only going to get worse

She’s got poreless skin, almond-shaped eyes, and a perfect pout. Her hair is always smooth, frizz-free, and candyfloss pink. Makeup is immaculately applied, abs taut and toned, while the rest is smooth and cellulite-free. The only catch? This woman isn’t real.

Aitana Lopez is an AI-generated social media influencer. With more than 215,000 followers on Instagram, @fit_aitana, as she’s called, posts a mix of lifestyle content “from Barcelona” ranging from photos of herself in Victoria’s Secret lingerie as part of a brand deal to more candid snaps taken in the airport or at home. Created by The Clueless, a Spanish company, the original intention behind Lopez’s invention was to maximise earning potential and reduce the sort of time-wasting that happens with real influencers.

“We did it so that we could make a better living and not be dependent on other people who have egos, who have manias, or who just want to make a lot of money by posing,” said agency founder Rubén Cruz in an interview with The Telegraph. She is already earning the company more than $10,000 per month.

The rise of AI influencers is concerning in the same way it is with any industry that can replace human workers with digital ones (at least ostensibly). But that’s not why I’m worried. No, I’m concerned because, after reading that interview, I proceeded to browse Lopez’s profile and started to feel bad about myself. I wish I had cheekbones like that. Why isn’t my hair that glossy? And good god, her eyebrows are flawless.

Yes, I know that Aitana is not real. But you wouldn’t know it from a quick browse through her photos. She is not the first AI influencer to step onto the scene, either. There’s the slightly less human-lookalike Lil Miquela, for example, who was created in 2016 and today has 2.7 million followers on Instagram, where she posts a range of ads and releases music. Then there’s Shudu Gram, a digital model based on a “Princess of Africa” Barbie doll.

Most recently, though, was the creation of an AI singer, Anna Indiana, whose first single, “Betrayed by This Town”, was widely mocked and derided online after it was released by anonymous creators on 24 November. Like Lopez, Indiana very closely resembles a real person, one with all the tenets of conventional beauty: full lips, clear skin, slim frame.

I fear that none of this bodes well for women. After years of trying to unlearn the social conditioning, we’ve all internalised, one that promotes a singular type of beauty and denigrates those who don’t match up, here we are, having to see it idolised all over again.

Given how lucrative these AI influencers can be, the potential for them to multiply is huge. In other words, we can expect to see a lot more women like this on our feeds. Women whose faces and bodies are so flawless they couldn’t possibly be real. And yet, they perpetuate an image we’re all supposed to be striving towards by either following them or purchasing the products they promote.

Aren’t the beauty standards on social media unrealistic enough already? Consider all of the editing filters that have historically been criticised for promoting plastic surgery, for example, and the rampant face-tuning that happens across Instagram to alter people’s faces and bodies. Now we have to contend with completely manufactured beauty, too?