OpenAI begins allowing users to edit faces with DALL-E 2

After initially disabling the capability, OpenAI today announced that customers with access to DALL-E 2 can upload people’s faces to edit them using the AI-powered image generation system. Previously, OpenAI only allowed users to work with and share photorealistic faces and prohibited the upload of any photo that might depict a real person, including photos of prominent celebrities and public figures.

OpenAI claims that improvements to its safety system have made the face-editing feature possible by “minimizing the potential for harm” from deepfakes, as well as attempts to create sexual, political and violent content. In an email to customers, the company wrote:

“Many of you have told us that you miss using DALL-E to come up with outfits and hairstyles and edit the background of family photos. A reconstructive surgeon told us he used DALL-E to help his patients visualize the results. And filmmakers told us they wanted to be able to edit images of scenes with people to speed up their creative process… [We] created new detection and response techniques to stop abuse.”

A change in policy does not necessarily open the floodgates. OpenAI’s terms of service will continue to prohibit uploading photos of people without their consent or images that users don’t have rights to — though it’s unclear how consistent the company has historically been in enforcing those policies.

In any case, this will be a true test of OpenAI’s filtering technology, which some customers have complained about in the past as being overzealous and somewhat imprecise. Deepfakes come in many flavors, from fake vacation photos to presidents of war-torn countries. Reporting any emerging form of abuse will be a never-ending battle, in some cases with very high stakes.

No doubt OpenAI — which has the backing of Microsoft and notable venture capital firms, including Khosla Ventures — is eager to avoid the controversy surrounding stability AI. Stable diffusion, an image generation system that is available in an open source format without any restrictions. Like TechCrunch recently wrote about it, it didn’t take long before Stable Diffusion — which can also edit images of faces — was being used by some to create pornographic, non-consensual deepfakes of celebrities like Emma Watson.

So far, OpenAI has positioned itself as a brand-friendly, bolt-on alternative to AI with no stability holds. And with the restrictions surrounding the new face editing feature for the DALL-E 2, the company is maintaining the status quo.

DALL-E 2 remains in invite-only beta. In late August, OpenAI announced that over one million people were using the service.

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