On the Internet, the proliferation of pornographic “deepfakes” embarrasses professionals and regulators

At 21e day of the war in Ukraine, a video, assembled from scratch and disseminated massively online, showed Volodymyr Zelensky calling on his troops to “surrender”. If it was very quickly denied by the Ukrainian president, it has put a new spotlight on the deepfake, a technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to, for example, substitute one face for another in a video. This technology is now of interest to public authorities, who fear the viral spread of fake news that is increasingly difficult to spot.

However, this use is largely in the minority. To understand this, you have to look at another online trend linked to deepfake: the replacement, in a pornographic video, of the face of the actress by that of another woman. This practice, sometimes called deep porn “, has grown in popularity since its emergence in 2017, and corresponded two years later to 96% of deepfakes findable on the Internet, according to the study of a Dutch cybersecurity company.

A technology intrinsically linked to pornography

DeepFaceLab is a tool for creating deepfakes. Its designers, who have published their code in open access on the GitHub platform, believe that almost all of the deepfake videos created today are made with this software. On their page, there are many examples: the face of billionaire Elon Musk integrated into the film Interstellarthe rejuvenated actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un in full speech on the preservation of democracy… But also, below, a link to MrDeepFakes, a pornographic site.

There are thousands of hijacked videos and photos, most of them representing influential women, such as British actress Emma Watson or Israeli actress Gal Gadot. This one, interpreter of wonder woman, was among the first victims of this practice, to which she obviously never consented. Another target of choice, the American actress Scarlett Johansson reacted in 2018 to the washington post to denounce a humiliating and sexist trick in the face of which many women, sometimes without public notoriety, are powerless: “Nothing can stop anyone from cutting and pasting my image onto someone else’s and making it look weirdly realistic. »

Read the story: We tried to make a deepfake (and we moved on)

The high traffic of this site (13.6 million visits in June, according to the SimilarWeb tool) and dozens of other online spaces dedicated to these fake videos shows how deepfake technology is linked to pornography . As demonstrated by a long investigation by the American media Vice published on May 17, the DeepFaceLab software and MrDeepFakes regularly pass the buck: the first encourages training in the manipulation of its code by hijacking pornographic films, while the other offers a detailed guide to using the software. A scientific article published in 2020 on the arXiv pre-publication platform was even co-authored by both the developers of the free tool and one of the managers of the porn site.

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