Piers Morgan and Oprah Winfrey Featured in Deepfake Ads for US Influencer’s Course

Celebrities, including Piers Morgan, Nigella Lawson, and Oprah Winfrey, have condemned the use of AI deepfake online advertisements that created a false impression of their endorsement of a controversial self-help course by a US influencer.

The advertisements promoted the “Genie Script,” a focal point of a manifestation course sold by Wesley “Billion Dollar” Virgin for $37 (£29). Virgin, a self-described motivational coach with 1.1 million followers on Instagram and a claimed net worth of $40 million, utilized these videos to attract buyers to his product. The videos suggest that the Genie Script, touted as a “missing” 20-word Hebrew Bible scripture, has the potential to transform one’s life.

The promotion of the “Genie Script” intertwines pseudo-science, conspiracy theories, and the deceptive use of celebrity likenesses, creating an enticing allure for individuals seeking an opportunity to seize control of their destiny.

An advertisement featured footage of Nigella Lawson discussing her recipes and television chef career. A voice, closely resembling Lawson’s, narrated a story about meeting Wesley at an exclusive party during a vacation. The narrative claimed Wesley handed her a concealed Bible page, hidden in someone’s room. However, the voice was not that of Lawson but an AI-generated mimicry, making it barely distinguishable from the real thing.

Authentic footage is combined with a deepfake impersonation of the food writer’s voice, creating an illusion that she credits her success to Wesley Virgin’s guidance. The AI-generated voice suggests that the script disclosed by Virgin unveils the secret to manifestation, a practice involving contemplating or jotting down aspirations to transform them into reality.

The voice claims, “Repeat this mantra every single day of your life… Since that moment I’ve become a multimillionaire all on my own.” A spokesperson for Lawson labeled the advertisement as “fraudulent” and a matter “of great concern.” Another advertisement, using comparable techniques, featured what appeared to be an excerpt from the Piers Morgan Uncensored TV show.

The voice detailed “a forgotten ancient scripture employed by kings to draw in immense wealth, miraculous healing, and unparalleled love,” and it appeared that the mouth movements had been altered to synchronize with the speech.

Piers Morgan, the authentic personality, informed a news outlet that the advert represented “another example of a very worrying trend of public figures being misused by deepfake AI manipulators for financial gain.” He added, “The real victims will be members of the public who unwittingly buy these products believing the celebrity endorsements are genuine.”

Online “testimonials” for the script are visible, with users expressing admiration for Virgin and expressing aspirations for the script to aid them in overcoming poverty or dedicating more time to their children or grandchildren.

Both advertisements, initially featured on YouTube, have been removed. A YouTube spokesperson stated that the platform has “long prohibited the use of manipulated media, including deepfakes and other forms of doctored content to deceive or mislead users.” Upon examination, Prof Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of Berkeley, confirmed that these videos were “clearly deepfakes.” He acknowledged the growing challenge of detecting such fakes as technology advances rapidly.

Additionally, another advert involving Oprah Winfrey, found in the Ad Library for Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram, incorporated genuine footage overlaid with AI-generated fake dialogue resembling the voice of the renowned talk show host.

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