🌘 GenAI’s dark side

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 by Snacks
The real Taylor Swift (Michael Tran/Getty Images)

The real Taylor Swift (Michael Tran/Getty Images)

The real Taylor Swift (Michael Tran/Getty Images)

The real Taylor Swift (Michael Tran/Getty Images)

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Hey Snackers,

Influencers are known for hyping vitamin gummies, Fashion Nova hauls, and now… pork. Industry groups are increasingly trying to get Gen Z to go ham through TikTok promos. But some claims — like pork’s power as a focus and mood booster — have rankled critics.

Stocks finished mixed as investors waited for Big Tech reports, which the market’ll digest today with other earnings. Markets actually have a stacked day ahead with the January jobs report and the Fed’s interest-rate decision due. After the bell yesterday, Microsoft and Alphabet reported strong, AI-infused earnings.


1. Taylor Swift deepfakes put tech companies in the hot seat as AI scrutiny boils over

AI’s dark side… Explicit AI-generated images of Taylor Swift went viral last week, with one post on X getting 45M views and 24K reposts before being taken down. To rein in the images’ reach, X said it had temporarily blocked all searches for “Taylor Swift” and announced it was hiring more moderators (Musk had laid off most of the trust-and-safety team when he took over). The images were first spotted on Telegram, a social platform with 800M+ users, and is now being criticized for its notoriously lax moderation.

  • Deeper than fake: Deepfakes are AI-generated images, video, or audio created to resemble a real person.

  • Real-life examples: Fake videos of celebs like MrBeast and Tom Hanks pitching scams have been plaguing TikTok and YouTube, and recent fake audio of President Biden telling people not to vote has raised concerns about misinfo in this election year. 

  • High stakes: The White House said it was alarmed by the Swift deepfakes and asked Congress to take legislative action.

Frankensteinian crisis… Tech cos are scrambling to control their AI creations. Microsoft added extra guardrails to its genAI tool, Designer, which 404 Media reported was used to create the Swift images (Microsoft said it’s investigating the claim). Meanwhile, Congress introduced a bill earlier this month that would effectively ban AI content that nonconsensually imitates any real person. Deepfake porn was recently found at the top of Google and Bing search results, and AI-generated nonconsensual nude photos have been used to bully teens.


Playing catch-up is a losing game… While the dangers of AI (and deepfakes specifically) have been predicted for years, legislators and tech cos are struggling to keep it in check. Last year, 1K+ tech CEOs including Musk signed a letter calling for a pause in advanced AI development until potential risks could be studied… but that pause didn’t happen. As more problems arise, federal and state laws could facilitate more legal actions against those creating fake content, and against the platforms used to create and distribute that content.


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2. Dry January goes bottoms up as the nonalcoholic-booze biz wets its whistle

Passin’ on pints… Dry January ends at midnight, and February’s hoped-for deluge can’t come soon enough for corporate booze slingers like Bud maker ABInBev and Constellation Brands. A recent poll found that 21% of drinking-age US adults said they’d planned to cut back on drinking this January, up 6% on the year. US beer shipments hit a 24-year low last year, and over in the pub-stuffed UK, this January is said to have been the driest in memory. Booze consumption is down across the EU too.

  • High ’n’ dry: One study found that 70% of Dry January participants were drinking in a healthier way six months later.

  • The young adults are alright: More than half of surveyed 18- to 26-year-olds in the US said they hadn’t drunk at all in the past six months.

  • MokTok: On TikTok, #sobercurious has 847M views as folks share mocktail recipes and talk about the hangover-free lifestyle.

Throwin’ back Shirley Temples… Sales of nonalcoholic spirits have started to flow. Picture: Diageo’s alcohol-free Gordon’s gin or its Captain Morgan Spiced Gold 0.0% (FYI: the biz just reported that it upped its marketing spend for Tanqueray 0.0%). With $1B in annual sales, nonalcoholic spirits are a drop in the $650B/year spirits market, but they’re expected to grow 30% yearly versus alcohol’s 6%. Zooming out, the non-boozy drinks industry (including NA beers and wine) did nearly $18B in sales in 2022.


Booze giants can have their cake and drink it too… Major brands have embraced no- and low-alcohol options, which can cost more than their boozy counterparts. Heineken 0.0 is dominating the low-ABV-beer space, and the new White Claw 0% aims to ride that wave. But it doesn’t mean the industry is giving up booze. Despite the growth in alcohol alts, in recent years Americans who do drink have been drinking more.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Excel: Microsoft beat quarterly expectations with double-digit growth for both sales and profit. It said gains were fueled “by infusing AI across every layer” of its tech stack, like its Azure cloud services.

  • Found: Google parent Alphabet posted its fourth straight quarter of accelerating sales growth as ads continued to pick up. Cloud growth was strong too. Google said it’s now in its “Gemini era” (Gemini = its new AI model).

  • Cold: Starbucks served up record quarterly revenue, though it still disappointed as same-store sales growth cooled like a PSL in January. The US was a bright spot as folks tacked on extras to their java orders.

  • Delivered: UPS is cutting 12K jobs globally after its package volume slipped last quarter. The cuts’ll hit nonunion managerial staff, sparing the 300K Teamster workers who reached a contract deal last year.

  • Vax: Pfizer posted a surprise quarterly profit after its Covid products didn’t drop off as much as expected. Still, its Covid-biz revenue is down 78% from its 2022 peak, and its outlook for weight-loss drugs isn’t great.

Snack Fact of the Day

There are about 100 ads and 20 commercial breaks during a typical NFL game


  • The Fed’s rate-decision announcement

  • Earnings expected from Aflac, Boeing, Lennox, Mastercard, MetLife, Nasdaq, Novo Nordisk, Phillips 66, Qualcomm, and Sun Country Airlines 

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Alphabet, Microsoft, and Starbucks

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