Chinese Artists Lead Boycott Against Social Media Giants Over AI-Generated Art Controversy
A wave of protest is sweeping across the Chinese artist community as they boycott Xiaohongshu, one of the country's major social media platforms. The root of the controversy lies in allegations of misuse of artwork by the platform's AI image generation tool, Trik AI.
The dispute started in August when a renowned illustrator, Snow Fish, on the platform, accused Xiaohongshu of using her artwork to train its AI tool, Trik AI, without her consent or knowledge. Trik AI, which is still in its testing phase, specializes in creating digital art reflecting the style of traditional Chinese paintings.
Artists in China are leading a boycott against one of the country's major social media platforms over allegations of unauthorized use of their artwork by AI tools.
Snow Fish became aware of the issue when she began receiving artwork posts from the platform that bore an uncanny resemblance to her unique style. The similarities were so striking that they prompted her to question Xiaohongshu and Trik AI publically, sparking a significant controversy that quickly gained traction online, especially within the artist community.
The issue, however, extends far beyond just Snow Fish. The outcry has ignited online protests against creating and using AI-generated images, with many artists claiming that their works were used without their knowledge. A public apology and better rules to protect their online jobs have been the primary demands of the artists.
As a result, hundreds of artists have posted banners on Xiaohongshu declaring “No to AI-generated images”, a related hashtag viewed over 35 million times on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter.
Global Debate on AI Use in Arts and Entertainment
The boycott in China is part of a more significant global debate on the use of AI in arts and entertainment. There have been numerous instances of conflict in the United States, where writers and actors have protested against studios' use of AI. A common sentiment echoed globally is the fear of artists about their livelihoods as AI advances at an unprecedented rate.
AI tools ranging from chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT to Google’s Bard are being developed and released almost faster than governments can regulate them. This rapid development is also seen in China, where tech giants like Baidu and SenseTime are developing their generative AI.
Besides Trik AI, Xiaohongshu has also developed a new function called “Ci Ke”, which allows users to post content using AI-generated images. This only adds to the concerns of artists like Snow Fish and others who argue that AI technology is not the problem; using their work without permission or credit is the real issue.
Many AI models are trained using the work of human artists by quietly scraping images from the internet without consent or compensation. This practice has long been a bone of contention within the artist community, with many arguing that AI developers are infringing upon their rights.
Impact on the Perception of Art
The emergence of AI-generated images also raises more significant questions among the artistic community about what constitutes "real" art and how to preserve its "spiritual value." Similar boycotts have been seen worldwide against popular AI image generation tools such as Stability AI's Stable Diffusion, California-based Midjourney, and Firefly from Adobe.
Stable Diffusion is currently entangled in a lawsuit by stock image giant Getty Images, alleging copyright infringement. Such incidents highlight the growing concern and debate around the use of AI in the creative field, raising questions about copyright, intellectual property, and the very nature of art itself.