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What’s going on with AI and Meta?

I’ve been setting up a new laptop this week. Along with uninstalling all the random rubbish you get preinstalled, I’ve also been trying to remove something called Copilot. What is Copilot you ask? “Achieve anything you can imagine with your everyday AI companion.” answers Microsoft. No, thank you. Why are all the companies so keen to shove AI trinkets down our throats?

Girl holding tuba on girl's head meme with the text 'me', 'unwanted AI', 'every company'

why People are unhappy with Meta

A couple of weeks ago I got a notification on Instagram (and Facebook) that their policies had been updated and they would now be using all uploaded images, captions and text to feed their AI training.

Meta policy update screenshot saying they will use anything they can get their hands on to train their AI
No Meta, I don’t think your interest in my art is legitimate at all.

They said I had a “right to object” so I filled out the form, which had the cheek to make me type an essay on “how this processing would impact me”. We shouldn’t need to justify ourselves here. It shouldn’t even be an opt out feature. Ask people to opt in if you really must do it. Meta’s response to my objection was not encouraging:

Going forward…

So the implication here is that anything already in their database is fair game. Disgusting. But I was one of the lucky ones because I’m in the UK and this opt out was only offered to residents of the UK and EU. So tough luck the rest of the world I guess. Did they even bother to tell you how they will now be using all your family photos?

Alongside this policy update they also introduced a new AI flag for uploaded images and videos (with a warning that “there may be penalties if you do not label content as required”). They say this is to “establish transparency and trust on Instagram”, but with the timing I suspect this also has something to do with Meta not wanting to accidentally feed AI trash into their training data.

One upside to all this is that I finally have an excuse to leave Instagram. I quiet quit a while ago due to my general hatred of reels, the fact that none of my followers were being shown my posts, and the ever incessant ads. I read recently that Meta are trialling a new unskippable ad. I’m reminded of the Black Mirror episode with screens that track eye movement so ads can be paused if you don’t look directly at them.

wow! A small percentage of the people that have specifically told you they want to see my posts! amazing!

While I was drafting this post the news came out that Meta have cancelled their plans to use Instagram and Facebook posts to train their AI. Only for users in the EU though. Yay GDPR.

I won’t be going back though. Life without Instagram is much nicer. I was always happier at Twitter anyway. It was much easier to have conversations with people and build niche communities. But I completely shut that account down long ago for obvious reasons. So my new place to hang out and connect with people is Bluesky.

Bluesky

I joined Bluesky when I finally got an invite after leaving Twitter. It’s now open for anyone to sign up, no invites needed. It was quiet at first but there have been a few people working tirelessly to encourage the KidLit community to migrate. The recent Instagram kerfuffle has seen a new wave of users so it’s a good time to try it out for yourself. Come find me there if you like!

It feels much like the old Twitter. I like following both kid lit, other hobbies, news and politics all in one place. I’m told it works very differently from Twitter under the surface though. It’s built on something called the AT Protocol. In the future that could allow all sorts of exciting things, but right now the thing you’ll notice is that you have fine control over what you see in your feed. There is no secret algorithm.

Whether you’re a new or long time user of Bluesky, Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a must kidlit follow for all the tips and tricks about how to get the most out of your time there. It’s all to do with custom lists and feeds, but if you don’t fancy creating your own then you’re in luck because Debbie, together with Charlene Chua and Brian Kirby have pulled together separate lists and feeds into the KidLit Megafeed! Here you’ll be surrounded by authors, illustrators, agents, editors, comic creators, librarians, and more.

Bluesky kidlit mega feed graphic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Kidlit megafeed graphic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Click it to read her guide about what the feed is and how to use it.

This month (June 2024 if you’re reading from the future) was also the first time KidLitPostcard day moved from Instagram to Bluesky (and Cara, another new site some artists have moved to. Very art focussed and feels like a cross between Instagram and DeviantArt). It feels like we’ve reached a turning point and I hope all the art prompts, challenges and industry people come and join us.

the future

Bluesky is my preferred social media for now, but in the end I don’t want to rely on any social media platform to be the basis of my illustration presence online. Even if they seem great now they can be sold, change their focus, start charging lots of money, or be shut down completely. I prefer the control of my own website with a blog section. I know lots of people use Substack now to send out newsletters, but that too has it’s issues (Substack Says It Will Not Ban Nazis or Extremist Speech).

i like it here

Here I am in my own little bubble of whatever I want it to be. I like blogging because I also like to read blogs. Some are very of the moment and others are tutorials or demos that I discover decades after they have been written. Still interesting, still useful. When I was about to take a screen printing workshop with Print Club London a few weeks ago I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what sort of image to take. I didn’t know what to wear, etc. and I went searching online to read other’s experiences. I didn’t find any. I had to scroll and scroll and scroll through their Instagram feed instead to catch glimpses of what I might be doing that day. After the workshop I wrote a detailed write up of my day and so the next time someone is searching for what to expect I hope they find it and it helps. If it doesn’t tell them everything they wanted to know then they can leave a comment or email me and I’ll be very happy to respond.

Adobe

This post was originally also going to cover the shenanigans at Adobe, but there’s a lot of it and this has become too long already. So I’ll just give you the most recent highlight, which is that Adobe are now being sued by the US government for hiding termination fees and making it difficult to cancel subscriptions. If you’re looking to leave photoshop behind there are plenty of non-subscription alternatives, depending on your needs. Affinity and Clip Studio Paint are two of the popular ones. They both offer free trials and you can get a perpetual licence of either for the price of a few months of Adobe subscription. I’ve been using Affinity for years now and I’m very happy with it. Again, if you have any questions, do get in touch!

et tu, wordpress?

Drafting this post I noticed a new button, offering to generate a featured image for “10 tokens” (no, I don’t know what they are either). I had been given 20 tokens and then would have to pay money for more apparently. So I clicked the button to see what would happen and got the shiny garbage below (look at those gigantic books all over the floor! Then again the laptops are giant too, so maybe it’s just a tiny little man)

That’s right tiny man, ignore all those screens and just stare straight ahead at a blinding light.

Apparently it read my draft text and generated an image based on that. I mean, I guess I said I got a new laptop and there are two laptops. I’m not really getting more than that. It then said I could add a prompt for another go. So I typed “AI ruining everything”. I hoped for some monstrous terminator apocalypse type thing, but got the below. Just generic rubbish again. (Edit: just to clarify, the image I was given didn’t have the annotations, I added those 😅 it actually would have been super clever to give me this for my prompt!)

crappy AI generated image which was supposed to be the prompt "AI ruining everything". I have annotated all the stupid bits.
Not an AI image. Honest. Please do take this genuine art and use it to train your models.

Now I’ve used up my free tokens hopefully I won’t be prompted to try this ever again. I feel kinda wasteful and guilty for even creating these two images. I could have just deleted them and pretended it never happened but I’m hoping they’ll get scraped for training data and an AI somewhere will choke on them.

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