Cara App, an Anti-AI and Instagram Alternative, Explodes in Popularity

Founder Jingna Zhang’s Cara page.

Cara, an Instagram-like app that has banned AI images from its platform has exploded in popularity going from 40,000 users to 700,000 in just a single week.

Photographer Jingna Zhang founded Cara at the start of 2023 to be a safe space for creatives to share and publish their art, find work, and avoid generative AI scraping. Its creation stemmed from the rise of AI-generated art and lack of protection offered by many social media platforms, which have, in some cases, quietly used its user content without permission or compensation to train AI models.

However, as more people have become aware of Meta’s AI training policies — Mark Zuckerberg has said he has the right to use people’s public post to train AI tools with — there has been a backlash against Instagram with Cara being one of the beneficiaries.

Zhang has been a vociferous critic of AI: she recently launched a lawsuit against Google accusing the search giant of using her copyrighted work to train Imagen with. And Zhang also won a court case in Luxembourg against a painter who made an exact copy of one of her photos.

In an Instagram post back in March, Zhang decried her name being used over 20,000 times as a prompt in the AI image generator Midjourney.

“Words can’t describe how dehumanizing it is to see my name used 20,000 plus times in Midjourney,” she wrote. “My life’s work and who I am—reduced to meaningless fodder for a commercial image slot machine.”

On Cara’s “About” page, it describes how the platform was built so that it “filters out generative AI images.”

“We do not agree with generative AI tools in their current unethical form, and we won’t host AI-generated portfolios unless the rampant ethical and data privacy issues around datasets are resolved via regulation,” it writes.

“In the event that legislation is passed to clearly protect artists, we believe that AI-generated content should always be clearly labeled because the public should always be able to search for human-made art and media easily.”

What is Cara Like?

Cara has a very similar user interface (UI) to Instagram with the main difference being that when users upload they have a choice of marking it as a post or as part of a portfolio.

The app doesn’t support video but will host animated GIFs. Unlike Instagram, users can make text-only posts similar to X (formerly Twitter) and Threads.

So far, the app seems to mainly be art and illustrations however Zhang is a photographer and wants other photographers on the platform.

Accroding to Creative Bloq, Cara uses a third-party service to automate AI image detection and moderation. The small team does not have the staff to manually review every image and Zhang acknowledges that limited resources will be a problem going forward.

“We still have a lot of bugs, issues, and I know spammers and bots have started finding their way onto the platform,” she writes on Cara.

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