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Deepfake Porn Videos of Celebrities are Just Another Form of Sexual Exploitation

Studies find that 99% of deepfake porn videos are of entertainers, like Kristen Bell, who have unknowingly been featured in content they never consented to.

Cover photo of Kristen Bell retrieved from Wikipedia by MR O. 5-minute read.

Horror movies: some people love them, some people hate them. And whether you’re the type to shrink in your chair and peek through your fingers, or the one sitting on the edge of the seat anticipating what happens next—the crazy thing is it’s all in response to something that’s fake.

It’s all a response to content we know is fake. But that doesn’t stop viewers from reacting to or remembering it.

So what if we take this logic and apply it to a similar situation?

Let’s talk about deepfakes

In the last couple of years, a digital phenomenon has emerged called “deepfakes.”

You may not have heard of “deepfakes,” but you’ve probably seen some. Remember that video of remastered Princess Leia that was even better than Star Wars’ Rogue One attempt? Or the clip where Nicholas Cage’s face is superimposed on all the characters in the show “Friends?”

These fake videos—called deepfakes because that’s the username of the guy who first shared them on Reddit—are digital manipulations of a real person’s face or voice, created using deep learning technology which “learns” from existing data like photos and videos of that person.

Related: 7 Things You Can Do If You’re A Victim Of Deepfakes Or Revenge Porn

That data can be used to manufacture fake audio, images, or videos of someone, making them appear to do or say something they might never say in real life.

Previously, a lot of data was needed to make a realistic deepfake, which is why the easy access to content of public figures facilitated the making of some pretty convincing deepfakes of celebrities or political figures.

But while there are some great deepfakes mash-ups out there of celebrities’ faces in shows they never appeared in, can you guess what the largest collection of deepfakes videos features?

It may be no surprise, but researchers at AI cybersecurity company Deeptrace found in September of 2019 that of the almost 15,000 deepfakes online, 96% are—you guessed it—porn.

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Celebrities: the main targets of deepfake porn

A recent spike of interest as a result of deepfake porn comes from Kristen Bell. In June, she spoke out against the use of deepfake porn after discovering that she was featured in explicit deepfake videos without her consent.

Related: Would AI-Generated Nudes Solve The Ethical Problems Of Porn Sites?

“I was just shocked,” Bell told Vox in an interview after finding out about the videos. “It’s hard to think about that I’m being exploited.”

Unfortunately, she hasn’t been the only celebrity targeted. Since 2017 when deepfakes first appeared, the majority of deepfake porn has targeted entertainers from across the globe, though it is increasingly expanding to women of all professions, facilitated by data from social media accounts. As deepfakes become more prevalent because they are becoming easier and cheaper to produce, we’re seeing some concerning realities appear when it comes to deepfake porn.

Deepfake porn discriminates

First, the vast, vast majority of deepfake porn is of women. In fact, Deeptrace analyzed the top 5 deepfake porn websites and found that 100% of videos were of women. On the other hand, Deeptrace found that among videos from the top 14 nonpornographic deepfake YouTube channels, 61% featured men.

Some consumers of deepfake porn have said that victims should take it as a “compliment” to have content like this made of them—but that statement could not be further from the truth.

Related: Here’s What It’s Like To See Yourself In A Deepfake Porn Video

These numbers merely echo the sexist reality regular adult mainstream porn entails, where most women are used, not empowered. Deepfakes takes that to a whole new level because of this critical issue highlighted by Deeptrace’s findings:

99% of deepfake porn videos were of entertainers, like Kristen Bell, who have unknowingly been featured in content they never consented to.

How is this a compliment?

Brain Heart World

Deepfake porn is nonconsensual porn

One of the most frustrating and painful realities is that these deepfake porn videos have been created with no consent by, dialogue with, and in some cases, knowledge by the victim. The victim has no control over what she appears to do or say, and who sees and shares this content.

In our society, this issue of consent has become very important. Movements like #MeToo and other protests against the sexual exploitation of women have this word in the core of their arguments. In the porn industry, consent is also an important word. It’s critical to ensure the consent of performers for the nature of the scene they agree to do. To put it simply, it’s the difference between consensual porn—which is very difficult to guarantee—and a rape tape.

Related: 6 Cases Of Nonconsensual Porn And Rape Tapes Pornhub Doesn’t Want Consumers To Know About

Porn even aside from deepfakes doesn’t have a stellar track record of honoring the consent of those who appear in videos: it is not exploitation-free and does not exist isolated from the business of exploitation like sex trafficking.

Reports exist of minors being coerced to perform in porn, and there are many reports of adult performers who were coerced into scenes or tricked into believing they were signing up for a different one. Consumers can ultimately never be completely positive that a scene was made with the consent of the performer involved.

While mainstream porn sites make bigger efforts at ensuring the content available was made with performers’ consent, reality shows they haven’t always done the best job. Among less prominent porn sites, this is even more questionable as mainstream porn fuels demand for sex trafficking, where victims are often forced into making porn that end up on these sites. Also, videos of sexual abuse victims have ended up on mainstream sites.

Related: Revenge Porn Victims Have This Big Challenge To Overcome: Search Engine Results

It turns out, deepfake porn is just as bad, if not worse. Deepfake porn allows for easy objectification, taking a victim’s body, voice, face, and using it for whatever sexual fantasy technology allows for without consent from the victim. It is sexual exploitation, plain and simple.

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Kristen Bell: “I was just shocked, because this is my face…it belongs to me.”

Let’s go back to horror movies for a second—remember how we said that knowing they’re fake doesn’t mean viewers don’t respond to the content as if it’s real? Well, deepfakes are exactly like that. Some deepfakes are labeled with the “disclaimer” that the content or the victims involved are fake; meanwhile the photo, audio, or video quality can look horrifyingly realistic. See the problem? The content may be fake, but the exploitation is real.

Related: Are Porn Sites Protecting Victims Of Nonconsensual Content? We Investigated, Here’s What We Found

At best, deepfake porn is intentionally misleading; at worst, it is outright exploitation. For women who have been victims of deepfake porn, regardless if people realize it’s faked porn, the damage has been done.

Each of us can slow the demand for sexual humiliation and sexual exploitation. Are you with us?

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