Only a year ago, asking this question would indicate that this article was, at best, posing an existential question, or at worst, a cancel-culture hit piece. Now, a year into A.I., I’m literally asking this question: Is Dr. Melissa J. Rowling an actual person?
If this is your first time hearing about this bazaar reality we are now in, let me give you a brief recap. Unknown persons’ are using A.I. to scour the internet for news articles, stealing either whole books or parts of books, in order to compile that information and publish it under a fake author’s name on bookselling websites, such as Amazon, Goodreads and Indigo. “The books are the result of a swirling mix of modern tools: A.I.” reports The New York Times, in a recent article titled, A New Frontier for Travel Scammers: A.I.-Generated Guidebooks.
I recall the bewilderment I felt back in August when I first discovered one these fakes. About once a week, I take a trip on bookseller’s websites for new titles. What snagged me, was stumbling across a book written by “Dr. Miles Stones” about the Maui fires. Since this tragedy was still occurring, I couldn’t understand how someone had already researched, written, and published a book on August 11th, especially since in the book’s own description it claimed to, “Chronicle the events of August 8-11th.”
Curious to figure this out, I pulled on that thread and found myself unraveling what turned out to be quite a scandal that took much of the internet by the storm. I certainly wasn’t the only one who noticed something was off about “Dr. Stones”, and many theories were tossed around. (Despite all of that, “his” books are still for sale today on Amazon).
Now, hundreds of examples later, and having written a half a dozen articles examining the different aspects of this unprecedented issue, it’s hitting me as somewhat surreal and absurdly comical. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if one day I see a book on Amazon titled, “How to bypass Amazon’s guidelines for self-publishing.” Written by, “Dr. Insert F. Name-Here.”
The people behind this fraud are indeed learning and getting a little more sophisticated.” Dr. Stones” had no pictures, and on his author page it read, “I’d rather not say.” Whereas, as you will see, “Dr. Melissa J. Rowling”, has fetching photo which invokes a feeling of comfort and trust, as well as a very detailed author’s profile page which took a little more work to fact check and dismantle.
Personally, I’ve gone from feeling like an adventurous Nancy Drew, to concussed Alice down the rabbit hole, to now, an exhausted member of the Scooby gang, covered in soot, ready to unmasked the villain’s disguise and slap them with it. As such, with no further ado, much irony, and tongue thoroughly planted in cheek, it’s my distinct pleasure to present, “Author Dr. Melissa J. Rowling”.
Over the past year, “Dr. Rowling” has somehow researched, written and published 11 titles on Amazon. Amazingly, 3 titles in June 2023 alone. What a go-getter! Wait, a human wouldn’t be able to do that… what else has come on line in the past year? Oh yeah, ChatGPT.
Not who “she” claims to be
As you can see from her Author profile on Amazon, “Dr. Rowling” claims to be “a renowned nutritionist who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health, specializing in Nutrition, from the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”
I contacted the Records Assistant for the Alumni Office at UNC to check on this claim, and on Friday October 27th 2023, recieved a response from the University; “Given the information provided, we can’t find a record for her in our system.”
In addition, do you notice anything about her “Dr.” status (which oddly doesn’t indicated a field of study)?
The book on the left was published on December 29th 2022, and the one on the right, Jan 9th 2023. Remarkable, isn’t it? She not only came up with 70 more recipes in 12 days (to essentally republish the same book), but also managed to complete a PhD in under 2 weeks! Now that’s a Christmas Miricle.
And here’s the salt in the pervertible wound- turns out, it’s not even 50 recipes.
So who is Dr. Rowling anyway? Certainly, an author with 11 books would have a website, social media presence, or previous interviews one can read. As it turns out, this warm friendly face is nothing more than a Stock Image… and a busy one at that.
Here’s “Dr. Rowling” offering her testimony as “Evelyn K.” for hoosierhypnosis.com
And here’s our author moonlighting as “Math Zabaleta” offering her support for Lucas Ventoso, who, and I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to, happens to be the actual Secretary of Security for the city of Pinamar, Philippines.
Medical Misinformation can have Dangerous Outcomes
I spoke with Johanna Kaipainen, a registered dietitian with 19 years experience who specializes in pediatric diabetes at London Health Sciences Centre. Kaipainen said, “I think the big danger here is a person reading these books may not be seeing an actual doctor and having their blood sugar results checked and monitor because they are listening to ‘Dr. Rowling’.”
She went on to add, “In general, the Mediterranean diet is good for type 2 diabetics and that research is pretty sound, especially for heart heath. But as Scott points out in his review, (below) this recipe doesn’t make sense. There are other examples low glycemic index deserts which would be better for a diabetic which a nutritionist would know.”
The other thing that seemed off to Kaipainen was the author’s claim in 120 Recipes;“ I was diagnosed with Adult onset diabetes (Type 2 Diabetes mellitus) in November of 1974, at the age of 19 years old.” Kaipainen pointed out, “To be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at in 1974 would be extremely rare. First off, in 1974 it wasn’t routine to screen blood sugars as part of Health Checks. Unless she was morbidly obese at 19, it wouldn’t have even been checked. To give an example of how rare this would be, even today in 2023, we currently work with about 550 diabetic kids, and only about 25 of them have type 2 diabetes.”
At this point, I don’t know whether to just throw my hands in the air, rage, or laugh. Now, “Dr. Rowling” seems to be branching out from her fake Nutritionist credentials to tackle other subject areas. When I showed this title to Kaipainen, she sputtered, “Yeah, that’s definitely not part of our training.”
I have to agree with Author Jane Friedman who chronicled her own challenges with her books being stolen in her blog, “I Would Rather See My Books Get Pirated Than This (Or: Why Goodreads and Amazon Are Becoming Dumpster Fires).”
On a more positive note, I am happy to report that just this week Amazon announced stronger measures to do deal with this massive issue and some of the fraudsters are finally being unmasked. That’s good news, because between fake books and fake reviews, people are starting to really distrust the platform.
Ironically, one of “Dr. Rowlings” books is called, “Copycat Recipes Cookbook.”
Hmm… Copycat indeed.
“Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.”- George Saunders (Real author- I double checked)
An avid book reader and proud library card holder, Angela is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, fitness, loves to be in nature, travelling and exploring. With an honours science degree in anthropology, Angela also studied writing after graduation. She has contributed work to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Best Version Media, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.