‘Psychological warfare’: TikTokers are right to be horrified by the new Bold Glamour filter

Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

This week has seen an outpouring of horror at a new TikTok filter called “Bold Glamour”—or, as artist and researcher Memo Akten defines it, “psychological warfare and pure evil.” 

Bold Glamour is a beauty filter, but not as you know them. It doesn’t just map a new, conventionally attractive face over the user’s human visage; it does so in a way that remains realistic even when the user, for example, puts a hand over half their face—a move that would flummox earlier iterations of such technology. Yes, there’s still an artificial sheen to the results, but it looks real enough to provoke visceral reactions.

“This is not healthy,” says TikToker Meghan Lane in a popular video with the filter transforming her face. “My insecurity is about to skyrocket. My confidence is about to go way down.” When she turns off the filter, she winces. “I have never felt uglier,” says TikToker Lindsay Borow in another video, when she switches back to reality.

Social media has been messing with young people’s self-perception for many years now. When the American Psychological Association last week published a study showing that “reducing social media use improves appearance and weight esteem in youth with emotional distress,” the results were unsurprising. But the last few years have been especially rough—an educator friend recently told me how worried she was about many teenage girls in her school, who spent much of the pandemic interacting online with their peers and are now struggling to adapt to unfiltered-face-to-unfiltered-face life.

In this context, I think it’s fair to say there’s “psychological warfare” at play here, certainly at the cultural level. TikTok may have just announced a one-hour default daily time limit for its use by teenagers, but filters like Bold Glamour betray a deeper irresponsibility. 

Should we even call this a “filter” anymore? In a recent video, the writer and TikToker Sophia Smith Galer argues that “effect,” the term that TikTok itself employs, is more appropriate. “Why are we still using this word that comes from the old school days of Instagram?” she asks, when using the tool is really “a significant altering of an image, more like what we see in cinema.”

For me, this brings to mind the ubiquitous musical effect known as autotune. Vocalists can use it in a way that screams “I’m using autotune!”—think Grimes, or Bad Bunny, or Cher’s “Believe,” which introduced the tool to the world a quarter of a century ago. Sometimes, as with T-Pain, they’ll build a career on the sound of the effect while actually being a decent-enough singer to not need it.

But, alongside those using autotune to explore new sounds and stand out, there are many more singers who use it as a crutch to iron out the perceived imperfections in their voices and performances, often without most listeners noticing. Those audiences have become accustomed to hearing “perfect” pitch, and the artists have accordingly become locked into delivering it, often thinking their natural voices are not good enough to present on their own.

The result is that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell singers apart because distinctiveness and creativity so often stem from “imperfection”—the YouTube music guru Rick Beato even argues, quite persuasively, that the pop industry has set itself up for an A.I. takeover through its embrace of autotune. When you feel obliged to use technology to keep up with societal expectations, the results can be self-defeating and, well, boring.

Perhaps there will be a cultural backlash against autotune one day, and perhaps the appalled reactions to Bold Glamour will accelerate a revolution against digital masks. But, especially for those at a young age that has always been associated with pressure to conform, the pull of TikTok’s latest effect could prove irresistible, and its absence crushing. If the metaverse does become a thing, it will only amplify such risks, making now the time to have a wide discussion about the faces we choose to show the world.

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David Meyer

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman. 


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Friends of banned Airbnb users get banned too. The short-term rental company is banning people who are associated with others who have been banned as a safety precaution, Vice’s Motherboard reports. The process for who gets picked isn’t very clear, but Airbnb sometimes goes through with a ban if someone is likely to travel with someone who has been banned. It’s not necessarily forever though. Users can make a case for not being “closely associated” with a banned user or the person who was originally banned can make an appeal. 

Rivian falls behind expectations. Rivian missed analysts' revenue expectations in the fourth quarter, falling short by nearly $80 million. And the EV maker forecasts it'll make 10,000 fewer vehicles than analysts' expectations this year. In a letter to shareholders, Rivian cited supply chain issues as the main challenge to production in the last quarter but expects better predictability on supplier shortages this year.


Can A.I. replace lawyers? An A.I. platform known as Harvey can help lawyers perform legal tasks in areas such as due diligence, litigation, and compliance. The platform is being rolled out for use by 3,500 lawyers in 43 offices of Allen & Overy, the seventh-largest law firm in the world. But it’s unlikely to be a substitute for lawyers, writes Aron Solomon, the chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital, in a Fortune commentary. 

From the article

The idea that A.I. is going to take over the bulk of substantive work that lawyers do isn’t at all realistic. What’s going to happen is that Harvey is going to be used by massive, wealthy law firms to generate more profit. Harvey and whatever follows might be able to replace some of the work some entry-level lawyers do, but what corporate clients pay for is the experience, guidance, and judgment of the best lawyers. Big clients will still pay astronomical sums to have what they see as the best lawyers be responsible for the final work product.


Elon Musk is working on a rival to the ‘woke’ A.I. company that he cofounded and left after 3 years, report says, Prarthana Prakash

Salesforce paying Matthew McConaughey reported $10 million a year for creative help despite laying off 8,000 employees, by Eleanor Pringle

A small group of Amazon employees are rallying behind Andy Jassy’s return-to-office ultimatum while their coworkers protest, by Chloe Berger

Mark Zuckerberg wants A.I. ‘personas’ for your Facebook and Instagram accounts as he scrambles to keep up with rival ChatGPT, by Prarthana Prakash

Another top lieutenant turns on FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried as Nishad Singh pleads guilty, by Leo Schwartz


It just got easier to watch TikToks on the go. Volkswagen announced today that it will soon make an in-car app store available. The rollout will have apps like TikTok, Spotify, and Yelp and run on the vehicle's infotainment screen. Some new Audi models will have it available this year and it’ll eventually be in other cars like Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley. This move follows an announcement from Mercedes-Benz last month that its new cars will also have built-in apps, including Zoom and the Vivaldi web browser. 

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