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Photo Credit: Netflix

Netflix’s use of AI photo generation in true crime documentary “What Jennifer Did” is unacceptable. (Op-Ed)

When we sit down to watch a true crime documentary, we expect honesty and transparency – facts over bias. As a director, you have a responsibility to everyone involved in the case, victim or perpetrator, to not present any false evidence. Unfortunately, Netflix’s “What Jennifer Did” contains AI-generated images of Jennifer Pan, who allegedly plotted to kill both of her parents by hiring a hitman in 2010, appearing happy and having a good time at a party. It is clear that the director wanted to paint Pan as a party girl with little respect; to achieve that, the production resorted to showing the audience false images.

You can easily tell the images are false, carrying AI artifacts that prove their ingenuity. In one image, Pan is posing in front of a shelf giving two peace signs to the camera. Yet, her fingers are inhuman and mangled by AI. She is missing several fingers. As for the photos on the shelf, they are a strange mess that no one would display. There are also toiletries on top of the shelf; do you store your toilet paper for everyone to see? Another image of Pan shows her smiling in front of the camera, yet the lighting is not natural or typical.

AI has a long-running history of not being able to generate human hands. It doesn’t take an expert to identify that these images are invalid. Pan did not have any malformities in her hands and she certainly wasn’t missing any fingers. Using AI to further a directorial, productional agenda is not only cruel to Pan, regardless of whether she is guilty or not, but incredibly misleading to an audience that has put its trust in your program.

True crime is our latest fascination and as viewers, we may be too willing to believe everything presented in a documentary as fact. Documentaries are widely respected for their commitment to showing the truth. True crime has the word “true” in its very title, so we automatically expect each production to be completely valid, genuine, and truthful. Netflix did not care how these images were received and meant to trick the audience for higher views and more buzz around “What Jennifer Did.” My trust in Netflix as a reputable platform for documentaries has been shattered.


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