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Deep Trouble with Deep Fake: Are We Ready For These Apps?


For all the good AI has to offer, there will always be certain groups who come up with more ingenious (and sometimes devious) methods to use AI.

Deepfake technology is one such program that leverages AI for controversial uses. Deepfake has been used to manipulate pictures of well know personalities into uncompromising pictures. With AI, the pictures are able to blend naturally with other pictures, creating versions that are often scandalous and controversial. Some of the pictures and videos created with Deepfake have led to political scandals and other scandals all around the world.

While the technology was thought to be pricey and requiring expertise to execute, one company was able to create an application that uses advanced machine learning and Deepfake to create an app that is unsettling, to say the least. DeepNude was launched a couple of weeks ago and found itself struggling to cope with the demand it was getting – causing the site’s servers to crash a couple of times due to overwhelming traffic.

DeepNude allowed users to upload pictures of women on the app. The application then uses Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) on its AI algorithms to “undress” the women in the pictures, creating nude versions of them. The algorithm synthesizes the pictures. While many of the resulting pictures look obviously fake, the app has sparked quite an uproar.

The team behind DeepNude soon found itself in hot water as widespread outrage called for the app to be removed. Social and feminist groups called on the app to be banned for generating such pictures. This eventually led to the creators of the app pulling the plug on the app with it being removed from downloads just weeks after its release.

DeepNude creators tweeted that they created the project for “entertainment”, aimed at selling a few controllable sales monthly. Admitting that the app was not that great as it only worked on photos, they never expected it to go viral. They said while the pictures were watermarked, they felt the high demand meant the pictures might be misused, which was not what they intended the app to be used for.

Crowd Regulation More Responsive

While the developers feel the world is not ready for these apps, it is interesting to note how “crowd regulation” is starting to become more effective than government regulation. The app went offline after a huge backlash from online communities and users, not because of government regulations. This shows that while government regulations aim to protect society’s best interests, at times, crowd regulation is more responsive.

DeepNude is just one example of an application that had to go off due to crowd pressure. There have been other applications as well as programs in recent months and years that faced similar consequences as well.

A check online found that Google Playstore currently bans about 25 apps. Most of these apps are banned due to government regulations for sharing illegal or pirated content. However, there are still a number of apps that have seen crowd regulation, forcing developers to make drastic changes in the services they offer.

One of those apps is Tik Tok. The Chinese-based video app came under fire for allegedly allowing pornographic and sleazy content to propagate, especially among its younger audience. In some countries, the app is alleged to be a fertile hunting ground for paedophiles. Indonesia first banned the app but later overturned the ban, while India also considered implementing the ban but later considered more regulations on the app. What led to these decisions were the voices of society which pushed for the apps to be banned.

Another app that faced being banned on Apple’s Appstore was Tumblr. The photo and video sharing app was also called out for its controversial posts on pornography and explicit content. In the case of Tumblr, Apple insisted the app remove its adult and explicit content or face being removed from the Appstore. Tumblr complied with the regulations. Again, these regulations were also made following complaints and responses from the public.

Crowd regulation is fast becoming responsive in getting actions taken by governments, especially when it comes to technology. While technology continues to innovate the way we live, societal rules will still have a huge say in the types of applications and programs that are deemed acceptable. Perhaps in the future, the current young generation will have a different perception of these types of apps. As the developers of DeepNude put it, “The world is not ready for DeepNude.”