No one knows how to generate headlines and outrage like a pro-Russia propagandist.
Which might explain how Ashot Gabrelyanov has come to promote his artificial intelligence startup.
Gabrelyanov, who lives in Brooklyn, bills himself as the founder of MakeApp, a new app which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to supposedly show how women really look without makeup.
You take a selfie or upload a picture of someone else, and the free version of the app gives you two options to add makeup or remove makeup. You pick one, and the filter does the rest.
It’s a controversial idea by itself, given that AI tends to be fairly unflattering to anyone with a darker skin tone, and that using AI to judge female beauty is a pretty questionable goal.
But Gabrelyanov, a Russian native, is no stranger to controversy. He is also behind pro-Russia news outlet called LifeNews, which was described by the independent Moscow Times as showing “obsequious loyalty to the Kremlin.” The outlet is popular in Russia for its celebrity scoops — but is also banned in Ukraine for airing “war propaganda.” In an email to Business Insider, Gabrelyanov said he had stopped working for LifeNews in 2013.
Business Insider tested out MakeApp on light- and dark-skinned women to see how accurate it is. We quickly found the app is taking its cue from FaceApp, another controversial Russian photo app whose “hotness” filter made dark skin look lighter.