Prominent figures including Piers Morgan, Nigella Lawson, and Oprah Winfrey have denounced the use of AI deepfake technology in online advertisements promoting a controversial self-help course by US influencer Wesley “Billion Dollar” Virgin.

The adverts showcased Virgin’s “Genie Script,” a key component of his “manifestation” course, which is marketed for US$37 (£29) and claims to unlock life-changing benefits. Wesley Virgin, a self-proclaimed motivational coach with a significant social media following, employs a blend of pseudo-science, conspiracy theories, and celebrity likenesses to entice customers.

One advert featured a deepfake impersonation of Nigella Lawson discussing the Genie Script, falsely attributing her success to Virgin’s guidance. Similarly, another advert manipulated footage from the Piers Morgan Uncensored TV show to endorse the course. Both celebrities have condemned the fraudulent use of their likeness.

The use of AI-generated voices and manipulated videos has raised concerns about the spread of disinformation and the exploitation of public figures for financial gain. YouTube has since removed the adverts for violating its policies on manipulated media.

In addition to Nigella Lawson and Piers Morgan, a deepfake video featuring Oprah Winfrey endorsing the Genie Script was discovered on the Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram. Representatives for Oprah Winfrey clarified that she had no association with Virgin’s product and emphasised the need to protect consumers from false advertising.

While Virgin has attributed the adverts to affiliates, he has faced criticism for his business practices. Despite efforts by platforms like Digistore24 to distance themselves from Virgin, he continues to promote his self-help course on social media, claiming to teach followers how to become millionaires.

The controversy surrounding the use of AI deepfakes in online advertising highlights the need for stricter regulations to combat the spread of misinformation and protect consumers from deceptive marketing tactics. As the technology to create deepfakes advances, there is a growing urgency for measures to address its potential misuse and safeguard public trust in digital content.