A Focus on the Facts
The Harmful Side of Deepfakes
Extortion and Exploitation
Deepfakes can be used to create incriminating, embarrassing, or suggestive material. Some deepfakes are so good that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the deepfake and the real thing. Trying to convince others that an embarrassing or abusive image is fake can create additional layers of vulnerability and distress for victims. These images can then be used to extort money or additional ‘real’ images.
Additionally, deepfakes can be used to create so-called ‘revenge porn’, which is a form of image-based sexual abuse as retaliation or vengeance typically associated with the end of a relationship or not agreeing to a sexual relationship with the perpetrator.
There is also the potential for deepfakes to be used as a form of homophobic abuse, in which a person is depicted in gay pornography. This could then be used to ‘out’ the person or as an attempt to ‘destroy their reputation.’ For young people struggling with their sexual orientation, being depicted in any sexualised deepfakes may be particularly distressing.
Image-Based Sexual Abuse
There have been cases where images of children have been harvested and used to generate sexualised deepfakes. The realistic depiction of a victim engaging in a sex act can damage a child’s wellbeing and mental health. We know that deepfake software can be used to remove clothing from victims digitally. In some cases, there are commercial services where users can pay to have images professionally manipulated.
It is important that parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals are aware of the risks this form of (non-contact) sexual abuse brings. In some cases, victims may be unaware that their images have been harvested and misused to create deepfakes.
While many young people may be aware of and understand how images can be manipulated in this way, others may not. It is important to speak to them about the issue of deepfakes and how they can be misused.