eBay Execs Tout AI Prowess For Ads & Marketing, Ignore AI-Powered Fake Art Detection

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay Chief AI Officer Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov and Chief Marketing Officer Adrian Fung are making the media rounds talking up how eBay is using AI to improve ads, search discovery, and marketing efforts but external experts say the company is missing the boat on how AI can help stop fake art from being sold on the platform.

Mekel-Bobrov told MediaPost “AI touches nearly everything across our platform and marketplace. It has enhanced our customer experiences for buyer and seller, as well as enabling our employees to be more productive and creative.”

He went on to explain how eBay Ads uses Machine Learning and AI-powered solutions to take unstructured data and turn it into search recommendations, promoted listings, and campaign suggestions to optimize advertising strategies.

Fung recently appeared on the Ad Age Marketer's Brief Podcast saying, "We have to understand the customer at their deepest level to understand what’s going to be relevant to them. We’re leveraging gen AI now to be able to show more than just an item recommendation but really topics, marketing, copy all of these different areas that we can now leverage to create a more inspirational message for our customers."

He also touched on eBay's recent decision to put their media contract up for review as they pursue a more centralized marketing strategy across global markets, turning away from the more specific country or region based model they have pursued the last few years.

eBay Puts Media Contract Up For Review - Could It Signal Marketing Shift For C2C Strategy?
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But while eBay is desperately trying to pump up their AI prowess in friendly media appearances, The Guardian has published a troubling report about co-founder and CEO of Art Recognition, Dr. Carina Popovici's experience trying to get eBay to take action on fake Monet and Renoir paintings her counterfeit identifying AI program discovered being sold on the site.

Fake Monet and Renoir on eBay among 40 counterfeits identified using AI
Paintings identified as fake using cutting-edge technology are ‘tip of the iceberg’ specialist Dr Carina Popovici says

A “Monet” and a “Renoir” are among up to 40 fake paintings that are being offered for sale on eBay, according to research by a leading expert.

Dr Carina Popovici, a specialist in authenticating artwork, said she applied cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology to pictures advertised on the online platform and was shocked to discover that many had a “high probability” of being “not authentic”.

She has so far found up to 40 counterfeit paintings, and said there were a lot more.

“The algorithm identified all of them as fakes,” she said.

“We looked today and we downloaded some images, and there were fakes all over the place. Everything that we have analysed turns out to be not real art, a negative probability with 95% or so. I’m sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Items that Popovici said were identified as fakes by the AI included one advertised as a Monet, titled Forest With a Stream and priced at $599,000 (£477,000), and one listed as a Renoir, described as a study of Claude Renoir, costing $165,000.

In a disappointing, but not surprising turn of events, Popovici has been trying to contact eBay about these fake paintings since December, but the company has not responded.

Popovici has written repeatedly to the platform since December 2023 to convey her concerns. She reached out to its offices in the UK, Germany and the US.

In her emails, she said it needed to address the problem “with the seriousness it deserves”.

She is still waiting for a response. She said: “I tried so hard to talk to them. I’m extremely frustrated that they don’t answer. I’m really very disturbed about this. They have a responsibility. They can’t just pretend that they don’t see what is happening, because there is so much of this. There are clear indications that there is a major problem there.”

Ebay told the Guardian: “The sale of counterfeit items is strictly prohibited on eBay, and we are committed to ensuring that goods sold on our platform are authentic.

“We do this by using multiple layers of AI technology, professionally trained eBay investigators and buyer protection programs. EBay proactively blocked 88m suspected counterfeits from being published in 2022, while removing 1.3m items from the platform following a review by an eBay investigator.

While eBay has acquired companies like 3PM Shield and Certilogo to enhance their AI counterfeit fitting powers, clearly they still need some help on the art front - rather than ignoring the problem, it would behoove eBay to learn from and partner with Art Recognition and Dr. Popovici to protect users on the platform.


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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!