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Following Channel Nine’s finger-pointing at Photoshop for its televised AI sexualisation of a Victorian MP, the editing software’s owner, Adobe, has responded by saying its program could not have manipulated the image on its own.
The Australian television network was called out yesterday (30 January) by Victorian Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell after she saw that a photo of her had been altered to be more sexualised and then displayed during a Nine broadcast on the duck hunting ban rejection.
In the original image, Purcell is wearing a simple white dress, while the altered image has turned that dress into a two-piece to expose her middle section and has enlarged her chest area.
I endured a lot yesterday.
But having my body and outfit photoshopped by a media outlet was not on my bingo card.
Note the enlarged boobs and outfit to be made more revealing.
Can’t imagine this happening to a male MP.
What gives? pic.twitter.com/NhnkDRMidc— Georgie Purcell (@georgievpurcell) January 29, 2024========================
Following Purcell’s callout of the network, Nine quickly responded that the issue was an error created by Photoshop’s artificial intelligence (AI) during the network’s standard resizing procedures.
“Our graphics department sourced an online image of Georgie to use in our story on duck hunting,” said Hugh Nailon, director of 9News Melbourne.
“As is common practice, the image was resized to fit our specs. During that process, the automation by Photoshop created an image that was not consistent with the original.
“This did not meet the high editorial standards we have, and for that, we apologise to Ms Purcell unreservedly.”
Photoshop has inbuilt AI photo-editing tools that allow for generative fill and alteration. Nine has attributed the incident to this and not a member of staff.
However, Adobe has now responded to Nine’s claims, saying that human input would have been required to modify the image in this way using Photoshop’s AI tools.
“Any changes to this image would have required human intervention and approval,” said a company spokesperson speaking to media outlets.
Additionally, Melbourne-based Photoshop tutor David Ewing told The Guardian Australia that there is no way that the alteration could have been done by Photoshop alone.
“[Channel Nine’s apology] has an underlying tone that Photoshop has done this with a mind of its own, but that mind needs to be told what to do, so that means selecting the top and telling it to make it shorter and then that process is automated,” he told The Guardian Australia.
“Photoshop would do nothing by itself other than open the photo. Someone has told Photoshop how to edit a part of the image that they have selected.”
Following the incident, Purcell has drawn attention to the way in which women are treated in the media.
Speaking with ABC Radio Melbourne, Purcell pointed out that the issue is one that male politicians have no risk of facing and is just another example of the ways women in government are treated.
“I think male MPs get to endure catastrophic days without having their bodies photoshopped when they’re on the nightly news,” she said.
“I wanted to point out the more insidious ways females continue to be treated.”
Speaking with The Guardian Australia, Purcell said that the day had already been the worst she had to deal with so far, being the day that the duck hunting ban was refused, and accepted that politicians do have “catastrophic days at work”.
“Unfortunately, the difference for women is that they also have to deal with the constant sexualisation and objectification that comes with having images leaked, distorted and AI-generated,” she said.
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, whose image was also in the altered image but did not have her image changed in any way, weighed in on the issue, concerned that incidents like this could deter young women from looking at a political career.
“I would be really concerned to hear that that has happened because that’s no way to represent any woman, let alone a woman who holds a position in public office, represents a community and is in the public discourse every single day,” she said.
“Let’s think about the image that sends particularly to young women.
“We know it can [deter them from pursuing politics] because young women tell us that themselves and that’s why, again, it’s important to both call it out, which I think is what’s happening here this morning.
“It’s important to call it out, to identify, to do better and to understand that we have come a long way, but we’ve still got a way to go.”