It’s not relevant to the “the software did it” argument, but a discreet tattoo has emerged as a key item of evidence in whether Australia’s Nine Entertainment was responsible for a much-publicised “boobs and croptop” image enhancement.
When Victorian Animal Justice MP Georgie Purcell took umbrage over a modified image of her that appeared on a Nine news broadcast, a top executive blamed AI automation in Adobe’s Photoshop. Melbourne news director Hugh Nailon claimed that changes to the image as part of resizing was the result of “automation by Photoshop”, while Adobe said “human intervention and approval” would have been required.
But with all the discussion about the morality of the modification, few have bothered to establish who could be right.
One exception was News Corp’s The Advertiser in Adelaide, where (now behind their paywall) digital reporter Emily Olle showed the limitations of the application, demonstrating how difficult it would be to get state premier Peter Malinauskas into a Crows AFL shirt using Photoshop’s AI generative fill feature, “and when we asked it to remove his shirt altogether, it flat out refused”.
Guardian Australia reported tests this week “suggested Adobe’s generative fill on images of women would often lead to shorter shorts, something Crikey was also able to replicate”.
Reports say the original image used by Nine came from ACM former stablemate the Bendigo Advertiser from last October, showing the politician from the top of her waist upwards. Apart from enlarging her breasts and introducing a croptop – but no stomach tattoo – the background was also changed, to illustrate a report about duck hunting.
GXpress columnist Kevin Slimp – who wrote a column on generative fill last October – says the tool should never be used on a news photo.
Stressing that he doesn’t work for Adobe or have any financial interest in it, he says if what he has read of the Purcell case is correct, “that Nine used generative fill to edit a photo which altered clothing in a photo – then it doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
“Much like the days when Photoshop was a new product, users have a responsibility to know what can – and what can’t – be done to a photo. I would never use generative fill on an image that would be included as news.
“If I were to use generative fill, it would be with an image to be used in an ad, original graphic or illustration.”
He says over the years, most publications have come to accept the use of Photoshop to enhance the printing of an image, so it will print more like the original photo, “but nothing should be used to change the image itself.”
Slimp says he sometimes serves as expert witness in US trials related to software issues, and if this were a trial, and he was an expert witness, “from what I’ve read, I’d have to say that Adobe is correct.
“Anything that happened to the image in question happened when the generative fill tool was used, and that’s a tool that should never be used on a news photo.”
Nailon said the image was resized to fit specs, “as is common practice”, but during that process, “the automation by Photoshop created an image that was not consistent with the original”
He said that “did not meet the high editorial standards we have, and for that we apologise to Ms Purcell unreservedly”.
What with Purcell disclosing the critical information that she’d had the tattoo on her stomach since 2020, it’s been a circus on social media… including the comment that ChatGPT will be needed to write the apology.
Pictured: The original image (right) and how it appeared