Fake, altered, and artificial intelligence-generated content is garnering interest worldwide, and several Black celebrities have found themselves at the center of it.
According to NBC News, record mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Denzel Washington, and TV personality Steve Harvey have found themselves targeted by YouTube videos using a mix of AI-generated and manipulated media to spread misinformation.
“The thing that gets me is there isn’t much being done,” Angelica Nwandu, the founder and CEO of popular Black culture news source The Shade Room, told NBC. “A lot of these pages are able to thrive for a long period of time and generate massive views without any kind of takedown.”
Several videos purport to implicate Jakes, without providing any proof, in the rape and sex trafficking allegations against Combs and use manipulated media to depict the celebrities in video thumbnails engaging in inappropriate acts and exaggerated emotional displays.
Jakes acknowledged the viral fake content in a sermon last month, saying, “All of you who expect me to address a lie, you can log off,” NBC reported. An attorney for the megachurch pastor said he is just the latest prominent figure targeted by fake and false information on YouTube.
ANH previously reported that the expiration of New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gave sexual abuse victims a one-year window to file civil action regardless of the statute of limitations, pushed several women — including entertainer Casandra “Cassie” Ventura — to come forward with allegations against Combs.
Ventura filed a lawsuit in November 2023, accusing the business mogul of rape and physical and emotional abuse during their years-long relationship. The suit, settled a day after Ventura’s filing, claimed Combs brought her into his “ostentatious, fast-paced, and drug-fueled lifestyle” shortly after she met him and signed to his label in 2005 when she was 19 and he was 37.
NBC examined a dozen YouTube channels that seem to distribute AI-generated phony news content – sometimes called “cheapfakes” – about Black celebrities. Many of the videos it analyzed were clickbait, with titles and thumbnails on YouTube implying content that isn’t really in the videos. The median total views for each channel was 21 million, with some videos receiving millions of views.
A representative for YouTube told NBC that the platform examined the flagged channels and took various actions, “including terminating three channels for violating our Terms of Service, removing additional channels from our monetization program, and removing a number of videos and thumbnails.”
“YouTube’s Community Guidelines set the rules of the road for what is and is not allowed on our platform,” the statement said, “including content that contains targeted harassment or unwanted sexualization.”
However, NBC reported that the content continued to flourish even after YouTube’s actions.
Videos featuring Black celebrities often relate to actual, shocking, and scandalous news events. According to NBC, the videos can rapidly gain popularity because they seem to offer new information on subjects already garnering attention, but in actuality, they are remixing real news with fraudulent information and claims.
Certain false news videos can also have many views and interactions, leading search results and recommended content to rank them higher algorithmically.
YouTube declared in November that it will implement a new rule mandating labels for videos containing AI content; that system is not in place yet.
“They use the jargon of the culture, the slang of the culture, because Black people trust Black media,” said Nwandu, referring to AI-generated videos, NBC reported. “There has been a long-standing distrust with mainstream media in the way that our stories are told.”
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