Richard Wilkins speaks about his viral ‘arrest photos’ on Today Extra

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Richard Wilkins has called out the ‘disturbing’ trend of AI-generated images after a fake photo of him being ‘arrested’ in a Sydney park was widely shared on Facebook.

The Channel Nine presenter was seen being handcuffed by three cops in a viral image that was either Photoshopped or generated using artificial intelligence.

While the picture was clearly doctored, many social media users fell for it. 

A visibly distressed Wilkins said on Friday that ‘deepfake’ photos involving celebrities may seem funny and harmless, but this one was no laughing matter for him.

He revealed on Today Extra he had received hundreds of messages ‘from around the world’ from fans who thought the arrest picture was genuine.

Richard Wilkins has called out the 'disturbing' trend of AI-generated images after a fake photo of him being 'arrested' in a Sydney park was widely shared on Facebook

Richard Wilkins has called out the ‘disturbing’ trend of AI-generated images after a fake photo of him being ‘arrested’ in a Sydney park was widely shared on Facebook

The Channel Nine presenter was seen being handcuffed by police officers in a viral image that was either Photoshopped or generated using artificial intelligence

The Channel Nine presenter was seen being handcuffed by police officers in a viral image that was either Photoshopped or generated using artificial intelligence

He said the viral photo of his ‘arrest’ was particularly concerning because it formed part of an elaborate financial scam targeting vulnerable Facebook users.

After host Sylvia Jeffreys revealed her own mother had seen the photo and brought it to her attention, Wilkins said he had also been inundated with questions.

‘I’ve had literally thousands of comments and messages from people around the world saying, “Hey, what’s going on?”‘ he said.

‘And while most people think that it’s dodgy and a fake, these things lead to other stuff. These lead to [web] links, and I’ve supposedly been sued by the Bank of Australia for giving incorrect financial advice.

‘It’s sending people links to where they can invest and stuff. The thought of someone losing [money] or investing in anything that I’ve supposedly recommended is what really upsets me.’

A visibly distressed Wilkins (right, with Facebook Australia's former chief executive Stephen Scheeler) said on Friday that 'deepfake' photos involving celebrities may seem funny and harmless, but this one was no laughing matter for him

A visibly distressed Wilkins (right, with Facebook Australia’s former chief executive Stephen Scheeler) said on Friday that ‘deepfake’ photos involving celebrities may seem funny and harmless, but this one was no laughing matter for him

After host Sylvia Jeffreys (right, with David Campbell) revealed her own mother had seen the photo and brought it to her attention, Richard said he had received hundreds of messages 'from around the world' from fans who thought the arrest picture was genuine

After host Sylvia Jeffreys (right, with David Campbell) revealed her own mother had seen the photo and brought it to her attention, Richard said he had received hundreds of messages ‘from around the world’ from fans who thought the arrest picture was genuine

He continued: ‘It’s gone from being sort of mildly amusing to quite upsetting and quite disturbing really.’

Wilkins suspected he was targeted because ‘in Australia I have a reasonably identifiable’ face and any suggestion of him being involved in a scandal would ‘become a feeding frenzy’.

‘People have clearly got too much time on their hands to do this kind of stuff, because it does look real,’ he added.

Stephen Scheeler, the former chief executive of Facebook Australia, said high-profile incidents of celebrity deepfakes were becoming increasingly common.

He warned the technology is becoming so advanced there are deepfake videos and voice clips circulating that are almost identical to the people they are impersonating.

‘We are coming into a new era now where it’s almost impossible for humans to tell the difference… and it’s only going to get worse,’ said Mr Scheeler.

Wilkins said Nine’s legal department had flagged the AI images to Facebook’s parent company Meta ‘months ago’ but nothing had been done.

Mr Scheeler suggested the problem was caused by a lack of human resources at social media companies to deal with scams and false information.

‘My experience at social media platforms is they are full of good people, but there are only so many of them and their platforms are so gigantic,’ he said.

It comes after Wilkins spoke to 2GB’s Ben Fordham Live about the fake arrest image on Thursday morning.

‘I don’t know what to do about it. This has been going on for some time,’ he said.

‘It never happened. It’s complete BS. The thought of anyone investing in anything because I was recommending it is quite disturbing, and I’d hate to think that was happening,’ he added.

Wilkins (right, with his son Christian) has called in the lawyers over the fake arrest photo

Wilkins (right, with his son Christian) has called in the lawyers over the fake arrest photo

In the fake viral image that circulated last week, the Weekend Today presenter looks alarmed as he is arrested and handcuffed by police officers in a Sydney park. 

Two of the police officers hold his arms while a third appears to be filing a report.

But the photo wasn’t all it appeared to be: the realistic picture was actually an AI-generated image with Wilkins’ face superimposed on a criminal’s body.

His son Christian Wilkins alerted his Instagram followers to the fake photo last Friday, reassuring fans his father had not been arrested.

He also made a light-hearted joke about his dad’s fashion choices, saying: ‘For those wondering, yes these posts are fake.

‘There’s no way Richard Wilkins would be seen not wearing skinny jeans.’

In the fake viral image that circulated last week, the Weekend Today presenter looks alarmed as he is arrested and handcuffed by police officers in a Sydney park

In the fake viral image that circulated last week, the Weekend Today presenter looks alarmed as he is arrested and handcuffed by police officers in a Sydney park 



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