Fake-porn videos are being weaponised to harass and humiliate women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’
By Drew Harwell, as published at The Washington Post.
The video showed the woman in a pink off-the-shoulder top, sitting on a bed, smiling a convincing smile.
It was her face. But it had been seamlessly grafted, without her knowledge or consent, onto someone else’s body: a young pornography actress, just beginning to disrobe for the start of a graphic sex scene. A crowd of unknown users had been passing it around online.
She felt nauseated and mortified: What if her co-workers saw it? Her family, her friends? Would it change how they thought of her? Would they believe it was a fake?
“I feel violated — this icky kind of violation,” said the woman, who is in her 40s and spoke on the condition of anonymity because she worried that the video could hurt her marriage or career. “It’s this weird feeling, like you want to tear everything off the Internet. But you know you can’t.”
Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. Supercharged by powerful and widely available artificial-intelligence software developed by Google, these lifelike “deepfake” videos have quickly multiplied across the Internet, blurring the line between truth and lie.
But the videos have also been weaponised disproportionately against women, representing a new and degrading means of humiliation, harassment and abuse. The fakes are explicitly detailed, posted on popular porn sites and increasingly challenging to detect. And although their legality hasn’t been tested in court, experts say they may be protected by the First Amendment — even though they might also qualify as defamation, identity theft or fraud.
Disturbingly realistic fakes have been made with the faces of both celebrities and women who don’t live in the spotlight, and actress Scarlett Johansson told The Washington Post she worries that “it’s just a matter of time before any one person is targeted” by a lurid forgery.
Johansson has been superimposed into dozens of graphic sex scenes over the past year that have circulated across the Web: One video, falsely described as real “leaked” footage, has been watched on a major porn site more than 1.5 million times. She said she worries it may already be too late for women and children to protect themselves against the “virtually lawless (online) abyss."
“Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else’s onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired,” she said. “The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the Internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause. . . . The Internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself.”
Read the full article at The Washington Post.
I was walking … to school on my own … all of a sudden this car drove by on the main road and some guy stopped at the red light, wound down his window, stuck his head out and started whistling at me.
This is an account by an 11-year-old girl of everyday sexism and harrassment – and there are countless others like it. But few children or young people know what to do if they are whistled at, beeped at or stared at when they are out and about in public.
“Street harassment” is defined by the activist group Hollaback! as unwelcome comments, gestures and incidents in public, including on public transport. For those who experience it, walking to school, going out with friends, and using the bus, tram, train or tube can become extremely stressful. Children and young people can worry about going out in public. They can even think that something is wrong with them.
What can be done?
There are some, if limited, reporting options for children and young people who experience street harassment. But it is unlikely that such an incident could be successfully prosecuted under the current relevant UK law, the Public Order Act 1986.
Image: ShutterstockRead more
13 Reasons Why makes a powerful statement about the nature of rape, challenging several widely held myths about sexual violence and what constitutes a ‘real’ rape.
Recently released on Netflix, the TV program 13 Reasons Why has attracted significant media attention for its treatment of sensitive material and themes, including teen suicide and sexual assault. Some have credited the show for sparking a conversation on suicide and its prevention, others, including mental health organisations, have raised concerns regarding the portrayal of suicide and possible promotion of problematic notions around it.
While certainly confronting, particularly in its depiction of rape and suicide, 13 Reasons Why has successfully exposed a culture of objectification, sexual bullying and harassment and sexual assault and how this treatment causes severe damage to women and girls. (Spoilers ahead.)Read more