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Deepfake Porn Could Be a Growing Problem Amidst AI Race

Artificial intelligence imaging can be used to create art, try on clothes in virtual fitting rooms or help design advertising campaigns.

But experts fear the darker side of the easily accessible tools could worsen something that primarily harms women: nonconsensual deepfake pornography.

Deepfakes are videos and images that have been digitally created or altered with artificial intelligence or machine learning. Porn created using the technology first began spreading across the internet several years ago when a Reddit user shared clips that placed the faces of female celebrities on the shoulders of porn actors.

Since then, deepfake creators have disseminated similar videos and images targeting online influencers, journalists and others with a public profile. Thousands of videos exist across a plethora of websites. And some have been offering users the opportunity to create their own images — essentially allowing anyone to turn whoever they wish into sexual fantasies without their consent, or use the technology to harm former partners.

The problem, experts say, grew as it became easier to make sophisticated and visually compelling deepfakes. And they say it could get worse with the development of generative AI tools that are trained on billions of images from the internet and spit out novel content using existing data.

“The reality is that the technology will continue to proliferate, will continue to develop and will continue to become sort of as easy as pushing the button,” said Adam Dodge, the founder of EndTAB, a group that provides trainings on technology-enabled abuse. “And as long as that happens, people will undoubtedly … continue to misuse that technology to harm others, primarily through online sexual violence, deepfake pornography and fake nude images.”

Noelle Martin, of Perth, Australia, has experienced that reality. The 28-year-old found deepfake porn of herself 10 years ago when out of curiosity one day she used Google to search an image of herself. To this day, Martin says she doesn’t know who created the fake images, or videos of her engaging in sexual intercourse that she would later find. She suspects someone likely took a picture posted on her social media page or elsewhere and doctored it into porn.

Horrified, Martin contacted different websites for a number of years in an effort to get the images taken down. Some didn’t respond. Others took it down but she soon found it up again.

“You cannot win,” Martin said. “This is something that is always going to be out there. It’s just like it’s forever ruined you.”

The more she spoke out, she said, the more the problem escalated. Some people even told her the way she dressed and posted images on social media contributed to the harassment — essentially blaming her for the images instead of the creators.

Eventually, Martin turned her attention towards legislation, advocating for a national law in Australia that would fine companies 555,000 Australian dollars ($370,706) if they don’t comply with removal notices for such content from online safety regulators.

But governing the internet is next to impossible when countries have their own laws for content that’s sometimes made halfway around the world. Martin, currently an attorney and legal researcher at the University of Western Australia, says she believes the problem has to be controlled through some sort of global solution.

In the meantime, some AI models say they’re already curbing access to explicit images.

OpenAI says it removed explicit content from data used to train the image generating tool DALL-E, which limits the ability of users to create those types of images. The company also filters requests and says it blocks users from creating AI images of celebrities and prominent politicians. Midjourney, another model, blocks the use of certain keywords and encourages users to flag problematic images to moderators.

[Associated Press]

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