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Internet’s fake celebrity porn problem

‘Scarlett Johansson’ in a realistic-looking DeepFake video.
‘Scarlett Johansson’ in a realistic-looking DeepFake video.

A GROWING trend of fake celebrity porn is proliferating online and social media sites are scrambling to censor the content which raises a number of ethical and legal questions.

The often pornographic clips are known as DeepFakes after the software used to create them. The videos involve superimposing the face of a celebrity or person of interest over someone in a pre-existing video.

In the darker corners of the web, creators are taking orders and even selling custom made clips of fake celebrity porn featuring popular actresses like Scarlett Johansson and Emma Watson as well as notable figures like Michelle Obama.

The software, which uses a type of machine learning or artificial intelligence, is primarily being used among amateurs to doctor lewd videos, however its applications are vast. The potential for blackmail, embarrassment, and harassment when creating such videos is immense.

As the technology become more common and easier to use, the authenticity of all sorts of videos will perennially be in question. Video evidence could become inadmissable in court, while propaganda and low budget adverts could exploit the use of unwitting celebrities.

As with most emerging digital technologies, its use related to porn has become the driving force behind the popularity of the face swapping tech.

A DeepFake video of actress Emma Watson is easily found online.
A DeepFake video of actress Emma Watson is easily found online.

At least one user on social media site Reddit was offering to make "redhead deepfakes" for free, or with the help of bitcoin donations from eager viewers.

A dedicated forum reached more than 80,000 subscribers before the social media site shut it down early this morning, as well as any related subreddits that posted similar clips or images including the long-time popular r/CelebFakes.

Reddit has implemented a new site-wide update regarding "rules against involuntary pornography and sexual or suggestive content involving minors," a Reddit moderator wrote.

The ban comes after Twitter, Gfycat and PornHub denounced involuntary porn and banned such videos from their platforms. However, that could prove easier said than done.

WHAT ARE DEEPFAKES?

The clips are very convincing, which speaks to the sophisticated technology used to create them. Nonetheless, it is really possible for anyone who is computer savvy to do.

To make a deepfake you need a computer with a Nvidia GPU and plenty of power to do the complex computation.

You need the software, a desktop program dubbed FakeApp, plus a sizeable batch of photos (the more the better) of the victim to train the application's deep-learning neural network. Essentially, the deep learning script analyses the two sets of images to produce the realistic face swap.

Creators rip thousands of celebrity photos from Google in order to create the videos. In the case of Emma Watson, who was a well known child actress, some of the pictures that were used in at least one clip included photos when she was underage. While the number was too small to have a noticeable impact on the look of the video, it raised further moral questions which led some reddit users to speculate it contributed to the site's desire to take down the forums. However, there is no evidence to suggest it played a part in the ban.

 

The video of Nic Cage being forced into the Superman movie below shows how remarkable the manipulated videos can look.

A FUTILE GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE

Reddit is desperate to make its platforms welcoming for all users and has an army of moderators employed to monitor content on the site. PornHub, on the other hand, has a more specific and mature demographic which it caters to and far less concerned about moderating its content.

Even still, the non-consensual nature of fake celebrity porn videos has prompted a crackdown by the adult site.

"We do not tolerate any non-consensual content on the site and we remove all said content as soon as we are made aware of it," a spokesperson told Motherboard this week.

"Non-consensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person's consent or permission."

However such efforts rely on users reporting the content, which could be near impossible to eradicate entirely.

At the time of writing a Google search for the porn website combined with the term "deep (space) fakes" results in the top link taking you to a page filled with videos in which Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot has been superimposed on highly explicit videos.

A fake Michelle Obama porn video.
A fake Michelle Obama porn video.
Scarlett Johansson in a realistic-looking video.
Scarlett Johansson in a realistic-looking video.

Topics:  celebrity fake internet porn



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