Chinese influencers turn to AI clones for livestreams

Influencers and celebrities like Calvin Chen are using AI clones for livestreams, sparking debate about authenticity in the burgeoning digital human market.

Liu Run, a Douyin business influencer with more than 1 million fans, has been using a digital clone for months. He says very few viewers have been able to distinguish deepfakes from the real people they are based upon.

Liu has made good use of his clone to produce videos in which he discusses tips for managers, shares business insights, and recounts anecdotes about entrepreneurship.

“I stare at you every day: is it true [really you], or false?” Douyin user @haode0 commented on one video.

“Celebrities can now make money while lying idle.”

While virtual clones are efficient, they haven’t always been well-received. In fact, the proliferation of livestreaming using clones has irked some netizens. Weibo users such as @bachuanxiaoji (@扒圈小记) commented online that “celebrities can now make money while lying idle.”

A clone of popular actor and singer Calvin Chen, previously of boy band Fahrenheit, broadcast an AI-generated livestream in September last year during which he ate chicken feet for 15 hours straight for his 9 million followers. The livestream was labeled as an AI video.

Chen immediately lost 7,000 followers in the three days following the video.

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