The Dark Side of AI Technology: Ethical and Societal Implications of Deepfakes Imagery

What is the ethical and societal impact of photoshopped pornography of at least 40 celebrities including Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Jenna Ortega? “It’s not just the sellers. Companies like eBay are also profiting from image-based sexual abuse,” said Lina Nealon, an executive for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

The phenomenon of deepfake imagery, a by-product of artificial intelligence with an uncanny level of realism, has opened a Pandora’s box of ethical, legal and societal challenges. This technology has taken a harmful turn as it is weaponized to generate non-consensual pornographic material, often victimizing public figures and celebrities. This dark side of technology has come under the spotlight as Forbes recently reported the proliferation of such material on eBay—an established online marketplace—featuring over 40 celebrities including Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Jenna Ortega.

Ethical Dilemmas

Non-consensual deepfakes featuring explicit content puts forward striking ethical issues. The unsanctioned use of an individual’s image for pernicious purposes breaches their fundamental rights to consent and privacy. Despite celebrities’ high-profile public lives, they retain the same rights to privacy as anyone else and unauthorized sexual content exploitation directly violates their personhood and autonomy. The fact that popular platforms like eBay facilitate the trade in such objectifying images raises critical queries about corporate accountability and complicity in image-based sexual abuse.

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Social Ramifications

The undesirable ramifications of deepfakes have significant societal impacts. This form of digital violation enhances the culture of sexual exploitation and objectification, usually of women, who are predominantly targeted. The diffusion and validation of such deepfakes can promote real-world harm by inducing enduring mental torment for the victims and fostering distorted views of sexual consent among viewers. This can have irreversible consequences for the victims’ reputations and careers.

The legal perspective concerning non-consensual pornographic deepfakes is astoundingly complex. Although such creation and dissemination of explicit material are categorically illegal in several jurisdictions, the enactment and enforcement of these laws present substantial challenges. Online platforms operate across international boundaries, making legal jurisdiction an intricate affair, and the internet’s intrinsic anonymity adds to the difficulty of tracking and prosecuting culprits. Modern laws may not necessarily cover AI-based offenses, leading to a lacuna in legal protection against technological exploitation.

Possible Remedies

The European Union’s Parliament has approved the world’s first significant set of regulations designed to govern artificial intelligence (AI) , marking a pivotal moment in the global approach to AI governance. This comprehensive AI law is set to establish a framework that balances the promotion of technological innovation with the protection of citizens’ rights and democratic values.

One of the key features of the new law is the promotion of regulatory sandboxes, which are controlled environments established by national authorities that allow for the development and training of innovative AI before these systems are placed on the market.

The law imposes stringent sanctions for non-compliance, with fines ranging from 35 million euros or up to 7% of global turnover to 7.5 million euros or 1.5% of turnover, depending on the nature of the infringement and the size of the company involved. These penalties reflect the EU’s commitment to ensuring that AI systems are used responsibly and that companies are held accountable for any misuse or harmful outcomes that may arise from their AI applications.

Public awareness campaigns are essential to educate about the malicious implications of deepfake technology and endorse ethical norms for digital content creation.

It’s crucial that all stakeholders—including online platforms, legal bodies, and the public—take concrete action against such digital violation. By putting strong legal measures in place, using robust technology and fostering a culture of consent and respect for privacy, we can hopefully eliminate the threat of non-consensual pornographic deepfakes for good. After all, unless we draw a line between profit and people, technology alone, is not to be blamed.



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