Pornographers without our knowledge

It is called deepfake pornography: artificial intelligence that uses photographs of any woman to create obscene images that are not real but are increasingly realistic. A dangerous evolution of revenge porn, it puts everyone at risk of being exposed on the web for the purposes of harassment, revenge or blackmail.
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In 2019, Italy adopted a law that punishes the crime of the so-called revenge porn (the dissemination of sexual images of a woman by her ex-partner on the internet), but from the web comes an even more dangerous weapon against women: sites that offer the possibility of creating fake revenge porn, or fake pornographic images, photos or videos, from a common photo.

Recently, the Anglo-Saxon media have reported on a site - which we do not name - on which users can upload a photo of a clothed woman in order to 'undress' her, resulting in a fake nude deepfake very realisticproduced with a technique of deep learning (deep learning) for human image synthesis based on artificial intelligence (see here The Huffington Post, BBC News e Daily Mail).

The word deepfake was coined in 2017 on the social networking site Redditwhere the first examples of deepfakejokes, hoax films and political satire, but above all pornographic films of actresses and influencer, including Scarlett Johansson (see here). The technology soon arrived in Italy too, with pornographic videos of politicians such as Giorgia Meloni e Laura Boldrini, and also with more innocuous videos such as the one in which Renzi was making fart noises at Mattarella (see here).

This new site, launched in 2020, however, raises alarm because it has developed more advanced and user-friendly technology, and quickly and freely churns out fake nudes that are virtually indistinguishable from a real photo. As he writes Huffington Postthe site boasts that "its technology is so powerful that there is no woman in the world, irrespective of ethnicity or nationality, who is safe from being 'stripped'.'".

Of course, the technology works exclusively for female nudesIf you upload a photo of a man, the site returns it with breasts and vulva.

According to the expert from deepfake Henry Ajder, "realism has improved massively" e "the vast majority of people using these [tools] want to target women they know": colleagues, friends, classmates, ex-classmates, neighbours, or strangers that have briefly crossed their path. Technology deepfake is therefore now mainly used as weapon against ordinary women, not protected by celebrity, which at least raises the doubt in the viewer that the pornographic images might be fake.

The speed with which the site has spread is also alarming. tens of millions of men using it worldwide. It is not clear who the authors of the site are and where they are; in July 2021 The majority of users came from the US, followed by Thailand, Taiwan, Germany and China. In particular, the site has spread rapidly through an incentive system that encourages users to to share a personalised link to the deepfake they have produced, so that they can upload more photos for free (the site currently allows one photo to be uploaded every two hours).

The site has therefore established a fruitful links with technology giants: does not operate in the dark web but in the light of day, in fact it is easily indexed on Google. But the most important relationship is with the social media who in turn profit from it, and, indifferent to the victimisation of women, theHowever, they are careful not to take any measures that might curb its spread, such as banning the site's URL from their platforms. At the moment, only Facebook has done so, after being contacted by journalists from the Huffington Post.

Legal solutions are being developed in the UK and the US to counter this threat. that could potentially affect any woman who has ever posted a photo of herself from the waist up on social media.

In the UK, the MP Maria Miller is working to include a prohibition of the use and development of such 'tools' in the forthcoming online security law: "If software providers develop this technology, they are complicit in a very serious crime and should be obliged to design their products to prevent this from happening."(see here).

In the United States Mary Anne Franks, docentand law at the University of Miami and president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (a non-profit organisation offering services to victims of computer-related crimes, see here), is developing a proposed criminal law focusing on 'forgery and theft of digital identity'. (digital impersonation forgery) that would punish those who knowingly create or distribute pornography deepfakeand which would limit the protections to the web platforms of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Acta controversial, decades-old law (dating from 1996) that guarantees immunity from liability for third-party content.

It is essential that also in Italy, where women and girls, often underage, continue to be tortured by the revenge porn, legislators are aware of the lethal technology of pornography deepfake, already arrived in our country despite the chronic technological backwardness of our country, and to take preventive measures without waiting for the suicide of one or more women victims of false revenge porn.

Maria Celeste



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