Irish Times removes ‘problematic fake tan’ article amid AI hoax fears

Newspaper says it is reviewing the widely-read comment piece as author’s veracity questioned

Andy Gregory
Saturday 13 May 2023 18:22 BST
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<p>The Irish Times has removed the text of the article</p>

The Irish Times has removed the text of the article

Ireland’s newspaper of record has removed an article it said “may not have been genuine”, amid suspicions of a hoax using artificial intelligence (AI).

The comment piece was published by The Irish Times on Thursday with the headline, “Irish women’s obsession with fake tan is problematic”.

But the opinion article was taken down the following day, after reaching second place in the paper's most read online articles that day, according to broadcaster RTE, and sparking discussions about fake tan on a lunchtime radio show.

An initial message on Friday reportedly said the article’s text had “been removed pending checks”.

By Saturday, the paper had issued a “corrections and clarifications” note under the original headline, reading: “The Irish Times has become aware that the article originally published on this page may not have been genuine.

“The article’s text was removed on Friday, May 12th, 2023, and a review has been initiated.”

Claiming to be from “a strict Catholic family” in Ecuador who moved to Ireland in 2015 during the vote to legalise gay marriage, the purported author argued that Ireland’s “widespread use of fake tanning products” jarred with their vision of the country as at the “forefront of progressive social change”.

“To me, fake tan represents more than just an innocuous cosmetic choice; it raises questions of cultural appropriation and fetishisation of the high melanin content found in more pigmented people,” the now-deleted article stated.

The article’s text has been replaced with a ‘corrections and clarifications’ message

But while the original headline and image remain online, the text and author’s byline has now been removed from the page, after journalists questioned whether the image of the author had also been created by AI.

The Independent has approached the newspaper for comment.

In a statement reported by the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson said: “On Friday, The Irish Times became aware that an article published online under the headline ‘Irish women’s obsession with fake tan is problematic’ may not have been genuine.

“The story has been removed from irishtimes.com, and a review has been initiated.”

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