The rapid online spread of deep porn images of Taylor Swift has renewed calls, including from US politicians, to criminalize the practice, in which artificial intelligence is used to synthesize fake but convincing explicit images.
Pictures of the American pop star were circulated across social media and were viewed by millions this week. One of Swift's X-hosted photos was previously circulated on the Telegram app, and was viewed 47 million times before it was removed.
“Our teams are actively working to remove all identified images and take appropriate action against the accounts responsible for posting them,” X said in a statement.
“What happened to Taylor Swift is nothing new,” Yvette D. Clarke, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, wrote on X. “For years, women have been targets of deepfakes.” [without] Their consent. And [with] With advances in artificial intelligence, creating deepfakes has become easier and cheaper. This is an issue that both sides of the aisle and even Swifties need to be able to work together to solve.
Some individual US states have their own legislation against deepfakes, but there is growing pressure to change federal law.
In May 2023, Democratic Congressman Joseph Morrell unveiled the Intimate Photo Deepfakes Prevention Act, which would make it illegal to share deepfakes without consent. Morell said the images and videos “can cause irreversible emotional, financial and hearing damage — and unfortunately, women are disproportionately affected.”
In a tweet condemning Swift's photos, he described them as “sexual exploitation.” The legislation he proposed has not yet become law.
“It is clear that AI technology is advancing faster than the necessary guardrails,” Republican Congressman Tom Kean Jr. said. Whether the victim is Taylor Swift or any young person across our country, we need to put safeguards in place to combat this disturbing trend. He co-sponsored the Morrill Bill, and introduced his own AI Labeling Act that would require all AI-generated content (including benign chatbots used in customer service settings, for example) to be labeled as such.
Swift has not spoken publicly about the photos. Her publicist in the United States did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Convincing deepfake video or audio clips have been used to imitate some prominent men, especially politicians like Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and artists like Drake and The Weeknd. In October 2023, Tom Hanks asked his Instagram followers not to be fooled by a fake dental ad featuring his picture.
But the technology largely targets women, and in a sexually exploitative way: A 2019 study by DeepTrace Labs, which was cited in proposed US legislation, found that 96% of fake video content was non-consensual pornography.
The problem has worsened dramatically since 2019. Deepfaked pornography, where image editing software is used to place a non-consenting person's face into an existing pornographic image, is a long-standing problem. But new horizons have opened up thanks to the development of artificial intelligence, which can be used to generate completely new and highly convincing images, including using simple text commands.
Prominent women are particularly at risk. In 2018, Scarlett Johansson spoke out about widespread fake porn featuring her likeness: “I've unfortunately gone down this road too many times. The truth is that trying to protect yourself from the internet and its corruption is basically a lost cause for the most part.
The UK government made non-consensual pornography illegal in December 2022, in an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that also bans any explicit images taken without someone's consent, including so-called “downblouse” images.
Dominic Raab, then deputy prime minister, said: “We must do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate images in order to stalk or humiliate them.” Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and protect women and girls from such despicable violations.
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