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UpGrad’s use of AI image resembling Google CEO Sundar Pichai in ad sparks row

Image: @upgrad_edu/Instagram

The rise of AI-generated images has generated both admiration and apprehension as this technology reaches new heights. With remarkable realism, AI now has the capability to produce highly authentic and convincing images of individuals. This breakthrough has unlocked numerous opportunities across various industries, such as advertising, marketing, and entertainment.

However, it has also ignited ethical concerns and sparked debates regarding the potential ramifications of utilising AI-generated images without adequate disclosure or consent. Recent controversy surrounds Upgrad, an Indian ed-tech platform, which is currently facing criticism for featuring an individual in their advertisement who bears a striking resemblance to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The advertisement showcases an image of this individual standing amidst a bustling railway platform. Accompanying the image is a quote attributed to “Sundar P, 45, IT professional,” revealing that they had received a scholarship to Stanford University but were unable to afford the associated travel expenses, resulting in the decision not to pursue the opportunity. It is noteworthy that the real Google CEO obtained a Master’s degree from Stanford University.

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Have a look at Upgrad’s advertisement post:

As soon as this image began circulating on various online platforms, internet users swiftly reacted and started commenting on the post. One user remarked, “Peak of marketing using AI,” while another user shared their negative experience with Upgrad by commenting, “Had a bad experience with Upgrad.” A user expressed their criticism of the post, describing it as cringe.

The ad campaign faced widespread backlash across popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as numerous users expressed their strong criticism, deeming it “cringe-worthy.” Many individuals also questioned the legality of utilising an AI-generated image of a public figure for commercial gain. In response to the controversy, Upgrad eventually included a disclaimer in the same post that said, “This post is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real events, real-life individuals/personalities or entities is purely coincidental. Viewer discretion is advised.”

This situation brings attention to the ongoing debates about misusing AI-generated images. It also raises concerns about being open and honest, ensuring that the images are genuine and respecting the rights of public figures when using them for advertising.


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