Online Sellers Use AI Images to Sell Products That Look Totally Different


Online retailers are AI-generating pictures of products that don’t yet exist and selling them. When the products arrive, perhaps unsurprisingly, they don’t look like the advertisement.

NPR recently interviewed a man called Assan Sayad who told the story of seeing a “really cool” jacket that was being advertised to him on Instagram.

“I was like, OK, maybe this is my calling to just own this jacket,” he says. Sayad clicked the ad which took him to a website called where he placed his order. When the package arrived he excitedly tore open the box to find a jacket — but not the same jacket he saw on Instagram.

“There is no quilting. There is none of the details that appear in the image exist in this jacket. It’s just a printed design,” says Sayad.

Sayad wasn’t entirely surprised by his disappointing order: he had begun to have suspicions something was wrong before receiving the package; he’d been looking at the jacket’s product page and had begun to wonder whether what he was looking at was a real photo — or an image generated by artificial intelligence.

“Looking deeper into these details, like the corners, the zippers — when you look at them, these all look like AI-generated. You can see that the zipper is not symmetric,” he says.

Sayad actually has experience with AI images; in fact, he achieved a Ph.D. researching how artificial intelligence generates images.

Needless to say, synthetic images of this type are improving with Midjourney v6 the latest iteration of the cutting-edge technology which can create photorealistic images.

There is an ever-increasing amount of AI tools being rolled out for companies to help with their product listings. For example, Google’s AI-powered Product Studio can create high-quality images of a business’s product; gallingly the search giant notes that it removes the need for “expensive” photographers.

Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce platform, has also rolled out an AI product that generates virtual backgrounds for products.

But a tech-savvy merchant looking to create a cool image for a product that might not yet exist would only need to start using Stable Diffusion or Midjourney to create something that will catch the eye of an unsuspecting customer.

Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California who specializes in digital forensics, tells NPR that online retailers who find sellers using AI deceptively should be booted off the platform.

Digital watermarks may also help fight this scourge, such as the Content Authenticity Initiative.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.