It’s been quite the week for men posing as fake women online. First, there was Rubeñ Cruz, founder of the Barcelona-based modeling agency The Clueless, which created the country’s first AI influencer, Aitana López, who can earn up to 10,000 euros, or $11,000, a month as a model. Her account has amassed 124,000 followers on Instagram.
According to Cruz, López came about because he was having trouble working with real models and influencers. “We started analyzing how we were working and realized that many projects were being put on hold or canceled due to problems beyond our control,” he told EuroNews. “Often it was the fault of the influencer or model and not due to design issues.”
A few days later, 404 Media reported that the popular female coding account Coding_Unicorn, which has 115,000 followers on Instagram and claims to be run by a professional software developer named Julia, is actually the brainchild of Eduards Sizovs, founder of software developer conference DevTernity.
According to 404 Media, there’s a bevy of evidence showing that Sizovs is responsible for the account, such as a YouTube video showing Sizovs logged into the account’s email, photos of Julia’s computer screen that shows her logged in as Sizovs, and carbon copy LinkedIn posts.
In addition, Julia lists herself as a DevTernity fan and links to the company’s upcoming conference which she was allegedly going to speak at but “switched to helping with the organization.”
The event, which was set to start on Dec. 7, has since been canceled following the allegations that fake women were added to the lineup in an effort for it to look more diverse. Two women — one listed as a staff engineer at Coinbase and another as a Microsoft MVP and WhatsApp senior engineer — were removed from DevTernity’s website and have no online presence or, potentially, existence at all, according to The Register.
To be clear, men posing as women online isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2021, a popular female biker influencer was unmasked as a 50-year-old man in Japan. That same year, writers Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez, and Antonio Mercero won the €1,000,000 Premio Planeta de Novela, one of the richest literary book and author prizes in the world, while posing as a female writer under the pseudonym Carmen Mola.
But what was most interesting about the two most recent cases is the ways in which the public received them. While Rubeñ Cruz, the creator of AI influencer López, was largely met with fawning headlines about how the AI model makes 10,000 euros a month. Sizovs’ Julia was quickly admonished.
“The amount of hate and lynching I keep receiving is as if I would have scammed or killed someone,” Sizovs wrote on X. “But I won’t defend myself because I don’t feel guilty. I did nothing terrible that I need to apologize for.”
To Sizovs’ point, he really hasn’t done anything different than any of the other myriad cases listed above. Sure, he could have been more forthright. But it’s tough to see much light between what he’s done and what the modeling agency behind López is doing. Both are seemingly using fake influencers to exploit a demand in the creator economy.
And rest assured that this is merely the beginning. For years, the key to cultivating an audience as an influencer has been relying on the presumption that authenticity reigns supreme. But with AI’s developing ability to produce real-looking and acting people, what does it even mean to be real anymore?