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  • Writer's pictureThe Merge

Confronting the Surge of Deepfake Pornography and Digital Gender Violence

Deepfake pornography, a disturbing new form of sexual harassment, has emerged as a significant societal concern, particularly for women. This phenomenon involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to create fake videos and images, often superimposing individuals' faces, typically women, onto explicit content without their consent.


This manipulative and invasive practice not only violates personal privacy but also inflicts emotional and reputational damage on the victims.


Women face new sexual harassment with deepfake pornography

A striking example is the case of Indian actor Rashmika Mandanna, whose manipulated video ignited a debate over the threats posed by deepfakes in India.

However, she is far from being the only victim. An investigation by India Today's Open Source Investigations Team revealed a rampant circulation of Deepfake pornographic content on social media platforms, often targeting prominent Bollywood actresses.


These Deepfakes are meticulously crafted using AI tools, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between real and manipulated content. The spread of this content is not limited to obscure internet corners; it has proliferated onto mainstream platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram​​.


The use of Deepfake technology isn't confined to celebrities. A 2019 study by Sensity AI highlighted a chilling statistic: 96% of deepfake images generated worldwide are pornographic, with a staggering 99% targeting women.


The simplicity of creating deepfakes has been amplified by the availability of “face swap” apps, making this technology easily accessible and more dangerous, especially for women.


The misuse of these tools underscores a broader issue of digital gender violence, where the non-consensual dissemination of sexual content involving women and girls often includes threats and harassment​​.


 
 

The legal landscape for combating Deepfake pornography varies globally.

In India, for instance, there's a lack of specific laws addressing this issue, posing challenges in identifying and prosecuting the creators and distributors of such content. The servers of major internet companies, often based outside India, further complicate jurisdictional and regulatory issues.


However, some countries have made strides in establishing laws to tackle the dangers of AI and Deepfake pornography. The UK's Online Safety Bill, for example, criminalizes the creation and sharing of manipulated explicit images or videos without consent. The European Union has a similar framework, while the US lacks a federal law but has some states banning Deepfake related to election fraud and pornography​​.


The increasing sophistication of Deepfakes, coupled with their easy accessibility, poses a significant challenge in differentiating real from manipulated content. This calls for a more nuanced approach to media consumption, urging individuals to critically examine the content credentials and metadata of images and videos they encounter online.


Addressing the issue of Deepfake pornography requires a multi-faceted approach, involving legal reforms, technological advancements, and societal awareness. It's crucial to establish and enforce laws that specifically target the creation and distribution of non-consensual deepfake content.


Additionally, social media platforms and technology companies need to implement more robust systems to detect and remove such content promptly. Public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives can also play a vital role in sensitizing people to the ethical and legal implications of deepfake technology, thereby fostering a culture of respect and privacy online.

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