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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Amanda Meade

AFR’s power list goes deep fake with the likes of Sam Kerr and Margot Robbie to make a point

A screengrab from AFRs
There were mixed reactions to the digitally distorted images created for the 2023 AFR Power list that appeared Wednesday of Sam Kerr, Margot Robbie and others. Photograph: AFR

When footballer Sam Kerr, cricketer Pat Cummins and actor Margot Robbie appeared on the Australian Financial Review website with distorted limbs and extra fingers Weekly Beast was not the only one confused, if not alarmed, by the images.

The captions on the AFR’s article about the 10 most culturally powerful people in Australia in 2023 labelled them “an AI-generated image”, but the text gave no clue as to why the three were featured looking more like monsters than “people who made the biggest mark on culture this year”. Why did the other seven power-brokers have photographs?

The bizarre pictures, from the AFR Magazine’s Power issue, surfaced online on Wednesday, ahead of the print magazine’s Friday publication date.

AFR Magazine editor Matthew Drummond assures us the images were not a stuff-up but a planned execution, and that when read with accompanying articles will make more sense.

His desire to make a point about the potential for misuse of AI may not have hit the mark, but it has generated a buzz.

On the internet, however, when each article was a stand-alone, they were more than a little puzzling.

Drummond also batted away suggestions the Nine-owned newspaper was using AI to the detriment of professional photographers.

“The Power issue is an enormous exercise in portrait photography,” Drummond told Beast. “And as always, for this year’s issue we sent our photographers into the field to capture fresh portrait photos of as many power listers as we could muster.” He said AI was used to generate images of some of the power listers to show “what a high-quality AI fake image looks like as at September 2023”.

The cover of the magazine carried two images of the ultimate powerbroker: prime minister Anthony Albanese. One was AI-generated and one was a traditional photographic portrait, but our favourite was an AI one of Albo as a DJ.

An AI generated image (left) of Anthony Albanese used in the AFR Magazine
Will the real Anthony Albanese please stand up: The AFR’s AI generated image of the prime minister (left) with an unaltered image. Photograph: AFR

Sky News Australia discovers climate change

Sky News Australia, which has become a central source for climate science misinformation around the world, has shocked viewers by admitting the hot weather is a result of “global warming and climate change”.

“The major influence behind the forecast of warmer weather is the continued and increasing influence of global warming and climate change, which ensures most years are now hotter than historical averages,” according to the broadcast.

The exclusive report, not by chief denialist Rowan Dean but by Sky News Meteorologists, was released this week.

Four segments on Dean’s Outsiders program that tried to undermine climate science and play down the threat of global heating on the Great Barrier Reef were found to have breached industry codes in April.

Dean has described climate change as a “fraudulent and dangerous cult” and devotes much time on the Sunday program to criticising the science of global heating.

Sky News Australia has acknowledged the ‘influence of global warming and climate change’ in one of its weather specials
Sky News Australia has acknowledged the ‘influence of global warming and climate change’ in one of its weather specials. Photograph: Sky

Andrew Bolt is also a key climate sceptic, and often editorialises against what he calls “global warming propaganda”.

We await what Dean and Bolt have to say about their own channel’s Severe Weather Outlook for 2023-24 report. The report is in stark contrast to the results of last year’s analysis of a global network of climate science deniers, which found the News Corp Australia-owned channel was a key “content hub” for “influencers, sceptics and outlets”.

‘Paternalistic pandering’ gets a pasting

The Age annoyed staff and some readers this week when it published an article by a Melbourne writer, Christopher Bantick, lamenting why he couldn’t compliment a woman on her appearance anymore.

“Men are now too scared to give compliments to a woman lest their words be met with a withering rebuke,” the regular Age columnist wrote . “I can’t help think we have lost something if we can no longer simply recognise and celebrate something about another person – male or female.”

Not many were impressed by the sentiment and the letters poured in, telling Bantick the “old paternalistic world of pandering to what men want is disappearing”. A taste of the correspondence published by the Age: “I’ll give you the tip: it was always creepy and more than just a bit. The fact that people are now more empowered to call it out is the only – and very welcome – difference. Just stop.”

Weekly Beast understands Nine journalists were unhappy with the decision to publish the piece and freelancer Kerri Sackville was so angry she offered to write a reply.

Sackville delivered a set of rules for men like Bastick and was blunt: “If the woman is a stranger, and you are walking past her in the street, do not give her a compliment … If the woman is an acquaintance, but she is in her workplace, or if there is any sort of power imbalance between you, do not compliment her on her appearance.”

Sourcing, framing of news stories can encourage hate speech

While explicit hate speech is rare in mainstream news media, framing and sourcing and the negative representation of groups encourages hate speech online, a report by Purpose has found.

“Within our complex and evolving information ecosystems, news media institutions have enormous power to influence public discussion and catalyse online activity,” the report said. “For this reason, they require special attention and accountability when it comes to online hate.”

Funded by Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation, the report examines the enormous power of news media to influence public discussion and catalyse online activity.

Researchers reference the Weekly Beast report about how, during unrest in Alice Springs earlier this year, the media gave a platform to a cosmetic nurse who claimed to have witnessed child abuse in remote Indigenous communities even though she had never worked in such a community and didn’t live in Alice Springs.

In a case study of the online activity surrounding the media coverage of police reports of increased violent crime in Alice Springs, researchers found an increase in the “intensity of dehumanising hate speech online about First Nations peoples”.

“We encountered hate speech in comments sections responding to news reporting across multiple social media platforms, on NT-based Facebook pages and groups, and in the extremist publishing of far-right influencers,” researchers found.

Weekly Beast spoke to the nurse who was interviewed by Peta Credlin on Sky News, Karl Stefanovic on Today, Daily Mail Australia, Nine’s Darwin reporter Georgie Dickerson and 2GB’s Ben Fordham, and she confirmed she had been a full-time cosmetic nurse for two years.

But in most cases, no retractions or corrections of the stories featuring her have been made by news media, the report said.

Victorian bridge over troubled waters?

Is the Herald Sun taking a softer, kinder approach to the new Victorian premier Jacinta Allan?

After a famously combative relationship with Dan Andrews, the Hun editors are perhaps trying to mend bridges with the Labor government if the treatment of the new leader is any indication. Allan was described as “brave” in one headline, and the front page on the day after she was elected was “Dawn of a new JA”, accompanied by several flattering photographs of the 50-year old in an academic gown, carrying a baby, stroking dogs and wearing a hard hat.

“Speaking to MPs and party officials who have worked with Allan a consistent picture emerges,” national weekend political editor James Campbell wrote.

“They agreed she is intelligent, hardworking, and something rare in modern politics, brave.

“‘Jacinta is not a coward, she doesn’t mind getting into the fray,’ another former minister said.”

Lamb chops with a side of freedom fries

The fawning coverage of Rupert Murdoch in the Weekend Australian was beyond even our expectations and can be summed up by the front page headline “Enduring resolve to fight for freedom and the truth”. The Oz writers Jamie Walker, Paul Kelly, John Stenholt, Hedley Thomas and Greg Sheridan all lined up to contribute to the thousands of words of praise.

The editorial declared the paper was just like the great leader in its dedication to the truth above all else and its “disdain for elites and connection with the concerns of ordinary people”. “At The Australian, we hold our duty to readers as our greatest responsibility,” the editorial said. “Like Mr Murdoch, we owe no allegiance to any side of politics. Our duty is to challenge all comers with fidelity to the truth.”

But we will leave you with this insight from one of his minions, former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson, who told Sky News: “I can remember going to have lunch at his home in the hills outside LA and just to sit there and watch him eat lamb chops was quite an honour … ”

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