The Latest Dangerous AI Trends in Social Media

The Bark Team | February 15, 2023 | Culture & Media Digital Citizenship Kids and Technology

laptop with cartoon brain on it

Have you noticed the excitement over artificial intelligence (AI) lately? You may have first noticed the technological advances when automated chatbots started popping up on most websites. Perhaps you know the frustration of trying to get through the bot to speak with a human only to receive the same automated, generic responses over and over.

It's like the automated phone systems that have frustrated us for years are suddenly unleashed on the internet. Thankfully, there are some less frustrating and more exciting advances in AI technology. Many are showing up as AI trends on social media, which means you and your children are likely seeing and maybe even participating in them.

While some of these trends are a lot of fun, they also come with some serious risks. Before you download the next big AI app or give your child the green light on that silly Facebook game, take a moment to consider the downsides of social media AI applications.

The State of AI Technology Today

Artificial intelligence is the science of training computers to function as humans. There are four main types of artificial intelligence, and each requires a different level of technological innovation. Understanding these types will tell you where we are today and where the technology is expected to go in the future.

  1. Reactive Machines – The most basic form of AI. Machines process real-time requests or data without storing information or learning and developing advanced skills. They simply react to incoming stimuli. Many chatbot applications fall into this category. They read for keywords and deliver pre-written responses.
  2. Limited Memory – Machines process real-time data while storing information and using it to develop more advanced skills over time. Incoming information is saved in a growing knowledge database, so the machine becomes smarter with time.
  3. Theory of Mind – The ability of limited memory machines is combined with an introductory level of emotional recognition and response. The machine collects hard data and stores it but can also pick up on human emotions and make future predictions based on all collected information. Imagine if you threw a few angry cusswords at a chatbot, and they understood that you were frustrated.
  4. Self-Aware AI – Machines develop a sense of self and have emotions of their own. They understand our emotions, words, and behaviors but also think about their own needs, desires, and emotions.

Today’s AI technology falls into the Limited Memory category. While Alexa may remember what you ordered from Amazon last week, she doesn’t pick up on your emotions as you ask for a reminder to call your mom at 3 p.m. or a weather report at 4 a.m.

What Alexa does is record and store a lot of information. If you have one of Amazon’s home assistant devices, that information may include private conversations that you don’t want anyone else to hear, let alone want to have recorded. That’s an example of the risks that come with the convenience and fun of AI, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

The use of AI in social media was an $800 million industry in 2020. It’s expected to become an industry worth more than $3,500 million by 2026. Much of that activity was attributable to marketers using AI to focus ad campaigns on select groups. That is shifting now with the development of AI apps that allow users to simply have fun while on social media platforms.

Here are some of the AI trends you may notice on social media platforms today:

  • Special Effects – AI is used to add special effects to videos or live video streams. TikTok’s Effect  House is a great example. Users can add a variety of digital effects to their own faces or create background scenery to hide their current location when going live. Creators have been playing with the effects with some amusing and creative results.
  • AI-Generated Text – AI writing programs like Jasper are promoting their services for social media ads, blog posts, marketing copy, and much more. They create text of any length on any topic in just seconds.
  • Photoshopping – Photoshopping was once considered taboo, but it’s all the rage on social media right now. AI apps are used to look at pictures and translate them into drawings or specialized artwork with a variety of decorative filters. Some of the more advanced AI art generators create artistic images without the use of filters, but the results often take hours rather than seconds.
  • Predictions – Some of the oldest technologies take basic information from a social media profile and generate some sort of prediction. Some predict elements of personality, while others predict the future, romantic status, and more. Some applications require you to answer a few questions, while others simply analyze your picture and/or profile.

All of these social media AI trends have their own risks. To show what you should look out for, we’re going to focus on AI art generators in more depth.

AI Art Generators – What are They? 

AI art generators are applications that turn existing images into artistic or creative images. It’s the AI version of going to a street fair or amusement park and paying an artist to sketch your face as a cartoon. The difference is that these advanced apps can generate 20 or more images in just a few hours or even less. Some apps turn a single image into a creative work of art in just seconds or minutes.

This is one of those AI trends that look like pure fun. How can something that allows people of all ages to act silly and laugh while connecting with others be harmful? It may seem harmless, but we’re going to show you the risks in just a moment.

There are two popular AI art generators appearing on social media today:

  • Lensa – A photo-editing tool that allows users to correct imperfections, blur backgrounds, and special effects to pictures. The new AI generator tool requires users to pay a small fee in addition to the annual subscription fee. Check out our app review for more in-depth information on Lensa! 
  • AI Time Machine – A free photo-editing tool that turns pictures into artistic representations of specific historical times. Users can turn their images into Vikings, flappers, hippies, and more.

If you use social media regularly, perhaps you’ve seen some of these AI-edited photos on some of your friends’ profiles. From cartoon caricatures to hand drawings, there is a wide range of applications for these AI trends.

What are the Dangers of Using AI Art Generators?

We’re going to use Lensa’s privacy policy to dig into some of the biggest risks of using AI art generators or photo editors. Many of the AI apps offered today come with the same basic risks to your security.

Let’s start by pointing out that many users have a false sense of security when using AI in social media apps. They realize that they’re sharing pictures from their profiles or photos stored on their phones and computers, but they don’t realize what permissions they’re giving and what is often associated with those pictures.

Here’s a quote directly from the privacy policy on Lensa’s website:

“Your photos are posted and transmitted to others at your own risk. Please be aware that no security measures are perfect or impenetrable.”

They’re stating outright that no security measures are completely secure. Unfortunately, most users will never read the privacy policy before deciding to participate in an AI trend online. Let’s dig into the details of the major risks that come with these apps.

Access to Personal Information

The Lensa app collects the following information from all users:

  • Device information, including IP address, unique device identifier, browser type, mobile network information, and operating system
  • Photo metatags, including where the photo was taken (geotags)
  • Online activity, including activity on third-party websites and other online services

The privacy policy also states that if you don’t want them to collect this information, you shouldn’t use the app. You can’t opt out of information collection or the deposit of cookies on your device, though they do give information for blocking cookies on your device.

Some social media AI apps also collect information from your online profiles, including your name, birth date, and other sensitive information. A lot of this information is used to group users by a variety of demographics for marketing purposes.

There is still the possibility of misuse, which is why the Lensa privacy policy also includes this warning:

“Although we do our best to protect your collected information, we cannot guarantee the safety of the collected information transmitted to or through Prisma or an absolute guarantee that such information may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed.”

There were more than 4,000 known data breaches in 2022. There’s clearly a risk of any information collected by an app being leaked at any moment. The more they’re allowed to collect, the more consumers have on the line when these breaches occur.

Lack of Consumer Protection

There are laws that at least partially control what developers and organizations can do with the information they collect from consumers using AI apps and other technologies. Unfortunately, those protections are only valid within the United States.

You can vow only to use apps that are developed and managed within the U.S., but that doesn’t fully protect you. The Lensa privacy policy includes a clause that states data they collect may be transferred to other countries that don’t offer the same consumer protections as the U.S. They basically relieve themselves of any liability if something is to happen with your data while in another country that doesn’t offer adequate consumer protections, even if they transfer the data to that country.

Many social media users have no idea that these apps are using the services of providers in other countries. They also don’t think about the lack of consumer protection and security regulations in those other countries.

Inappropriate Content for Minors

Not all content on social media AI apps is appropriate for younger users. Parents and guardians may think that the images generated by a photo-editing app look like cartoons, drawings, or other innocent creative expressions. Unfortunately, there are often adult images and components hidden within the app. Some children may see and hear those components without their parents knowing.

The Lensa privacy policy does state that the app is designed for users over the age of 13. Many AI apps do have recommended age limits, but most don’t go far enough to ensure that children under that age limit aren’t using the product.  

You may have to dig around to find the recommended age limit for every application your children want to use, but it’s worth the effort. In a moment, we’ll talk about how you can set social media and AI boundaries for your children and make sure the rules are enforced in real-time.

What can you do to protect yourself and your children with advancing AI in social media? We have a long list of suggestions. The more of these you implement, the safer you may feel online.

  • Enable firewalls on all electronic devices
  • Run anti-spyware and anti-virus software on all devices
  • Only open files and attachments from known and trusted senders
  • Vary passwords between accounts and devices
  • Never give passwords to other people
  • If you receive an account verification code to access a platform, app, or service, never give that code to anyone else – including someone representing themselves as a company representative!
  • Stay informed of new trends and determine what is safe for your children
  • Take the time to read privacy policies and other information provided by app developers, the government, and technology companies

Lensa’s privacy policy recommends users disable cookies on their browsers. That’s a great idea if you want to avoid cookies that allow tracking for online activity. Doing so may disqualify you from using some features of AI social media apps. The Lensa privacy policy does state that disabling cookies and other tracking resources will make some features of the app inaccessible.

Keep Your Kids Safe in the World of AI

We promised to tell you how to set boundaries for your kids on social media and enforce your rules in real time. Here it is: Sign up for Bark!

The Bark app allows you to monitor the content your children are consuming while filtering websites and apps that you don’t want them to access. You can set location alerts so that you know when your child breaks a specified geographical boundary or monitor screen time without taking physical possession of a child’s device.

It’s important to research all applications, websites, and platforms that your child wants to use. Once you decide the rules and limitations for using those resources, Bark makes it easy to enforce the rules with your child. It’s a powerful app that gives parents more control in a world with so many hidden dangers and risks.

About Bark

Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.