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A New Femme Fatale: Deepfake Porn

AI advancements pose a disproportionate threat to women


Technology has been the fastest advancing sector of our modern day. What was once a conceptual novelty has now become an easily accessible necessity for almost every human on the planet. And the dangers of it are increasingly relevant. 


Even with the limited extent to which we have seen ‘deepfakes’ operate, the personal psychological, and collective social damage has been extreme. Deepfake porn content has been created and spread across the internet; victimizing activists, celebrities, and even political leaders such as Kamala Harris, and Angela Merkel. One chord is common: they all predominantly feature women. While the average consumer of this content will most likely employ common sense to surmise that the leader of a country is probably not spending her free time recording and leaking graphic sex tapes, what happens when this sort of content is brought down to the civilian level? 


There have already been cases of average women becoming victims of deepfake sexual abuse, often without their knowledge. There are entire sites dedicated to producing deepfake sexual content. More often than not, these sites are untraceable by the public and law enforcement. And while every gender can be affected by this sort of content, women are disproportionately targeted. 


ChatGPT has recently announced the rollout of a new feature named Sora — “an AI model that can create realistic and imaginative scenes from text instructions.” Essentially any user is able to type in instructions, or a description of what they want in video, and the AI can reproduce a seemingly accurate depiction of it. While the model is currently not available for public use, the intent is to eventually make it publicly accessible. 


ChatGPT has been praised for the accessibility that it provides to the common citizen. However, the accessibility of this model will prove impactful and dangerous. Ask any woman, and they will be able to tell you the results of any common AI being able to produce hyper-realistic content. A scorned ex-boyfriend could post AI-generated explicit photos on the internet; a coworker vying for the same promotion could release a realistic AI porno leading to a woman’s loss of work. Endless terrifying and possible scenarios could — and most likely will — happen. And that’s not to mention the power this could give paedophiles, sexual abusers, and exploiters. 


The consequences of this will be dire and extreme. Women and children will be exploited, humiliated, dehumanized, and abused, as these videos will blur the lines of what is real and what is not. While it’s difficult to have such little faith in our society, we should absolutely imagine the worst. As a sector, tech is currently regulating itself when it comes to AI; and industry leaders have responsibility only to their companies, not to the general public.

Policymakers have an urgent duty to enforce strict, specific, and effective laws — to limit the powers of AI, deepfakes, and all in between. And while many policymakers aspire to do this — spouting promises of legally limiting the extreme nature of the internet — many are technologically-averse and insufficiently educated with respect to the advancements of high-tech software. They struggle to understand both the urgency at which action needs to be taken, and the detail with which these policies need to be made. Even now, most countries have zero policies related to deepfake sexual abuse, while laws about revenge porn and internet sexual harassment remain limited. Many social media platform CEOs promise to curb and censor the spread of this sort of material, but the reality is they simply cannot. The internet is a vast space; once something is released into it, containment is near impossible. 


The advancement of technology cannot come at the cost of social progress, and women and children’s safety. Studies have repeatedly shown how this sort of technology has — and will — continue to be further used to abuse, torment, subjugate, and drive women away from the workforce, and off social media platforms. 


In our ‘progressive’ societies, we preach about the strides we have made for women. Right now we have an opportunity to curb the dangers of AI — we must take it.


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