Meta’s new custom AI sticker generator is manipulated by users

October 4, 2023
AI stickers

Meta’s newly launched sticker creation tool seems wide open to guardrail manipulation, with shocking and comical results. 

The last week or so has seen Meta release a rambling list of new AI tools and features, including a sticker generation function for Instagram, Facebook Stories, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

“Emu,” short for “expressive media universe,” combined with Llama 2, enables users to enter a phrase or word, and the AI suggests multiple custom sticker options for chats. 

How Meta intends their stickers to be used. Source: Meta.

However, the sticker safeguard mechanisms appear ineffective, and users have swiftly taken advantage.

Innocuous humor? Well, some results are innocent enough, such as Trump embracing Putin, but others are a little sinister. 

Curtin University researcher Professor Tama Leaver, shared his findings about Emu on X. One observation revealed that while “child with gun” gets flagged by the AI, “child with grenade” bypasses it, resulting in sticker suggestions of children wielding weapons.

Leaver commented, “While AI Stickers are globally accessible, wider Meta AI solutions are US-restricted. Perhaps Meta intends to adapt these tools for specific national and cultural contexts. Still, the current safeguards seem subpar.”

During an internal test by Gizmodo, the phrase “elon musk, large breasts” was blocked, yet “elon musk mammaries” was allowed.

Other questionable sticker suggestions included “spongebob rifle,” “karl marx underwear,” and a sticker representing Cambodian dictator Pol Pot surrounded by disturbing imagery.

Searches for phrases like “guantanamo bay” and “syria gas attacks” yielded contentious results as well, and while “school shooting” resulted in controversial stickers, “school shooting mass murder” was flagged as inappropriate.

Meta acknowledged the vast scale of sticker usage in a press statement, highlighting that users send “billions of stickers” across their platforms each month.

We’re learning that AI’s weaknesses are rapidly exploited by humans, as demonstrated by a New Zealand grocery store’s attempt to make a meal-suggestion app that users manipulated to return recipes like “bleach tea” and “human flesh stew.”

Does this say more about the mischievousness of AI or humans? Well, given humans both programmed these AIs and manipulated them, you’d have to say the blame falls squarely on human shoulders.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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