Irish Times Admits Op-Ed About Racist Fake Tans Was AI Hoax

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

It was supposed to be a provocative but authentic opinion piece: a young Latinx immigrant to Ireland warning the fair-skinned that using fake-tan products is racist.

But it turned out the tans aren’t the only things that were fake.

The Irish Times, a respected 164-year-old newspaper, has admitted it was duped by the author, and the editor is apologizing to readers.

“It now appears that the article and the accompanying byline photo may have been produced, at least in part, using generative AI technology,” editor Ruadhán Mac Cormaic said.

“It was a hoax: the person we were corresponding with was not who they claimed to be,” Cormaic said. “We had fallen for a deliberate and coordinated deception. It was a breach of the trust between The Irish Times and its readers, and we are genuinely sorry.”

The byline on the story was Adriana Acosta-Cortez. The Times said it was in touch with her throughout the editorial process, noting she was receptive to edits and offered personal anecdotes.

The now-retracted op-ed published on Thursday argued, in part, that “by engaging in fake tanning culture, we run the risk of devaluing the authentic experiences of individuals with naturally high melanin content, reducing their identity to a mere fashion accessory.

The author added, “To my Irish sisters, I would ask you to consider the implications of your choices and to question the societal norms that guide them.”

A Twitter account with the author’s byline and photo posted a jab at the Times on Friday, writing that the paper “has degraded themselves with such divisive tripe in order to generate clicks and traffic for their website.”

It was not immediately clear if that account was, in fact, operated by the person who wrote the op-ed. But the Irish Independent said it received messages from the account claiming the author wanted to “stir the shit in terms of the extreme identity politics debate.”

“I made a semi-legitimate Gmail address with no numbers and I also repurposed a Twitter account that I set up during Covid,” they claimed. “I wiped it and followed some accounts, news and Ecuadorian outlets, some Spanish language to make it look legit.”

They said the article was written with Chat GPT4 and the photo was created with Dall-E2 with instructions to create someone who was “woke,” and overweight with blue hair and a “smug expression.”

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