Tech Conference Collapses After Reports of AI-Generated Speakers

A woman speaking to a crowd is seen from behind.

The organizer of an online conference for women in tech canceled the event this week after it was revealed that at least one of the speakers was AI-generated.

The controversy came to light after a engineer Gergely Orosz posted a lengthy thread on X, formerly Twitter, detailing his claims that the speakers of DevTernity, the conference in question, were fake, built up by false profiles, phony jobs, and AI-generated images. Organizer Eduards Sizovs responded with a lengthy post of his own on X, claiming that a fake woman speaker on the lineup was merely a placeholder, but the news created a cascading effect as more and more speak out against the conference.

DevTernity had three women speakers lined up for the upcoming event, Sizovs said in his post, until two of them dropped out, though one of them was switching to focus on organizing rather than speaking. However, the two women were not immediately removed from the lineup shown on the event website and were accompanied by a “a demo persona from [the] test website version.”

“I noticed the issue in October, but my busy mind suggested delaying the fix until we finalize the program because 1) it was not a quick fix 2) it’s better to have that demo persona while I am searching for the replacement speakers, 3) and the persona isn’t part of the schedule anyway,” Sizovs explained in his post.

As of the time of publication, the DevTernity website only shows one main page without any speaker info and claims the event is “sold out.” This is technically true if there are no seats to sell for a canceled conference. PetaPixel reached out to Sizovs for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.

However, another wrinkle appears in Sizovs’ story. One of the women he claimed had to drop out of the conference may be a fake persona as well, according to reporting from The Verge. Orosz, who first raised the issue of DevTernity’s allegedly fake female speakers, noted discrepancies in the profile of Julia Kirsina, whom Sizovs claimed dropped out of speaking duties because she was instead going to help with organizing the event and couldn’t do both.

“This year, despite our attempts, we’ve achieved a worse-than-expected level of diversity of speakers,” Sizovs said in his post. But others, including Orosz, pointed out that the DevTernity conference actively asked people not to reach out if they wanted to become a speaker, though an archived version of the website (dated after Orosz’s post) viewed by PetaPixel did show an email to reach out to.

“This conference doesn’t have a call for papers because they follow the “Hollywood principle” (that sounds made up btw),” Orosz said in a post on X. “But then do AI generated images, fake names and titles for some fake women speakers profiles… and I cannot fathom WHY.”

Since Orosz’s thread and further reporting from 404 Media, many in the tech industry have distanced themselves from DevTernity and Sizovs himself.

“Nearly half of the 23 speakers listed on the event’s website on Monday night had already withdrawn from the conference before the event was canceled,” Fortune reported.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.