An article came out recently which brought an issue to light that many people were not aware of: deep fake pornography. The NBC article highlights a recent case of deep fake pornography involving popular Twitch streamers, including Atrioc, QtCinderella, Maya Higa, and Pokimane. The deep fake images, which were distributed on a popular pornographic website, were created by putting the streamers’ faces onto the bodies of pornographic actors.
This type of photo manipulation is not only damaging to the victims’ emotional and professional wellbeing, but the technology behind it is so widely available that its potential for harm is high. In the case of the Twitch streamers, the distribution of the deep fake images on this pornographic website underscores the need for legal action to protect victims of this type of manipulation—and thankfully some steps have already been taken.
What is “deep fake pornography?”
Deep fake pornography is a type of digital manipulation that involves superimposing the face of a person onto the body of a pornographic actor or actress. It can be in the form of photos or videos, and this technology is so advanced that it sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish the manipulated image from a real one.
In recent years, deep fake technology has become more prevalent and sophisticated, allowing people to manipulate images and videos with extraordinary accuracy. Unfortunately, it also means that this technology is often misused. In fact, studies show that nearly all deep fakes—around 96%—involve sexually explicit content, with the majority of these depicting women who didn’t consent to the creation or distribution of this content. While deep fake pornography started out as using the faces of popular celebrities or Internet stars, it has now morphed into creators offering to generate versions of a “personal girl.” For one user, this means that they’d charge just $65 to put the face of someone with fewer than two million Instagram followers on the body of a porn star. Imagine someone paying $65 to put the face of your neighbor, your wife, or your daughter on someone in a pornographic film. It’s sickening.
The effects deep fake pornography can have
Deep fake pornography is a form of sexual abuse and can inflict significant emotional and psychological damage on its victims, as it essentially creates and distributes pornography involving them without their consent. This form of nonconsensual sexual content can have a range of negative effects on victims.
Victims of deep fake pornography often experience a complex range of emotions, from shock and embarrassment to anger and shame. The realization that an explicit digital manipulation using their own face is being circulated without consent can be a deeply traumatic experience, as it violates their autonomy and privacy.
The emotional impact of deep fake pornography can be particularly devastating for victims who may feel powerless as they can’t control the spread and distribution of the image. Knowing that others are viewing an explicit image of themselves without consent can be an overwhelming and intrusive experience, leading to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. It can ultimately affect their self-esteem and confidence, which can lead to self-isolation and depression.
Deep fake pornography has the potential to wreak havoc on a victim’s personal and professional life. One of the most devastating consequences of deep fake pornography is its impact on a victim’s professional reputation. If a deep fake image or video is widely shared or distributed among colleagues and associates, it can lead to significant damage to the victim’s career and they may even lose their job. This is particularly true in industries where a person’s personal image and reputation are closely tied to their professional success, such as politics, media, and entertainment.
The impact of being a victim in a situation like this can be overwhelming and long-lasting. The emotional toll it takes can also cause significant damage to their relationships with family, friends, and partners. Victims often feel violated, ashamed, and embarrassed, which can make it difficult to trust others. They may feel betrayed by those close to them who have seen their manipulated photo, leading to tension and conflict in their personal relationships. In some cases, it can cause irreversible damage to their relationship with their partner.
Increased vulnerability to harassment
Victims of deep fake pornography are at an increased risk of harassment and stalking. The distribution of the image may attract unwanted attention from strangers, which can be distressing and potentially dangerous. They may also be at risk of online abuse, such as cyberbullying and trolling. Online platforms provide a breeding ground for this type of behavior, with perpetrators hiding behind anonymous profiles to attack and harass victims.
California is the first state to take action
Unfortunately, many people may not know how to pursue a legal case over something like deep fake pornography since it is relatively new. While there are possible ways you can sue the distributor for extortion, harassment, or defamation, Los Angeles solidified the opportunity to take legal action against deep fake pornography in 2020. Section 1708.86 of the California Civil Code now criminalizes the distribution of certain types of deep fake pornography. Specifically, the law prohibits the distribution of sexually explicit material that is generated by AI or machine-learning algorithms and features the likeness of a real person without their consent. This law now validates victims in that this is an unethical and harmful practice and, with the help of an experienced sexual abuse attorney, it gives them the opportunity to take legal action.
If you have been a victim of deep fake pornography, it is important to seek legal assistance from experienced attorneys who can help you take on this battle. At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles attorneys understand the sensitive and complex nature of these cases and have the knowledge and expertise to help victims pursue justice and hold those who distribute deep fake pornography accountable. We have a proven track record of success in handling difficult cases like these and are committed to fighting for our clients’ rights. To learn more about how we can help in your pursuit of justice, call us or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation.
John C. Taylor is one of the most accomplished and nationally recognized trial lawyers in California. The broad variety of cases he has tried during his career is matched by few attorneys, trying more than 125 cases to verdict, including: police shootings and civil rights, sexual abuse, serious personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, insurance bad faith, and employment.
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