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Taylor Swift deepfakes spark calls for new legislation

US politicians have called for new legislation to criminalise the creation of deepfakes after explicit fake photos of Taylor Swift appeared online this week.

Deepfakes are created using artificial intelligence (AI) to make a photo or video of someone by manipulating their face or body.

The images have appeared on sites including X/Twitter and Telegram and have been viewed millions of times. One such photo was reportedly seen by users 47million times before being taken down.

X/Twitter said in a statement that it was “actively removing” the images and taking “appropriate actions” against accounts involved in spreading them [via BBC].

It added: “We’re closely monitoring the situation to ensure that any further violations are immediately addressed, and the content is removed.”

Now, numerous US politicians have pointed to the need for legislation to catch up with advancements in AI technology. There are currently no federal laws prohibiting the sharing or creation of deepfakes, but some states have made advancements in creating legislation to tackle the issue.

US Representative Joe Morelle called the spread of the pictures “appalling” and encouraged urgent action to be taken.

He said the images and videos “can cause irrevocable emotional, financial, and reputational harm – and unfortunately, women are disproportionately impacted”. Morelle had also been involved with the proposed Preventing Deepfakes of Intimate Images Act, which would have made it illegal to share deepfake pornography without consent.

“What’s happened to Taylor Swift is nothing new,” Democratic Rep Yvette D Clarke posted on X, adding that women had been targeted by the technology “for years”, adding that with “advancements in AI, creating deepfakes is easier & cheaper”.

Pornography makes up an overwhelming majority of deepfakes posted online, with women making up 99% of those targeted in such content, according to the State of Deepfakes report published last year.

Republican Congressman Tom Kean Jr agreed, saying that it is “clear that AI technology is advancing faster than the necessary guardrails”.

“Whether the victim is Taylor Swift or any young person across our country, we need to establish safeguards to combat this alarming trend,” he added.

Swift has not publicly commented on the images, but the Daily Mail has reported that her team is “considering legal action” against the site which published the AI-generated images.

In addition, the CEO of Microsoft has spoken out against the deepfakes of Swift.

Satya Nadella said in an interview with NBC News: “First of all, absolutely this is alarming and terrible, and so therefore yes, we have to act, and quite frankly all of us in the tech platform, irrespective of what your standing on any particular issue is — I think we all benefit when the online world is a safe world.”

“I don’t think anyone would want an online world that is completely not safe for both for content creators and content consumers. So therefore I think it behooves us to move fast on this.”

Elsewhere, a man has been arrested and charged with harassment and stalking near Taylor Swift‘s home in New York.


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