In-app suggestive ads with Emma Watson’s face now removed
- App stores have removed Facemega, a deep-fake app that placed Emma Watson’s face in a suggestive video.
- The suggestive ad was promoted on Facebook, which later removed it following coverage by NBC News.
- According to a lawyer, the new deep counterfeiting could become a “weapon” of harassment against women and girls.
Several online stores and Meta have removed a controversial face-swapping app that posted sexually explicit ads featuring “Harry Potter” actor Emma Watson’s face to someone else.
Facemega, a deepfake app, showed a woman with a Watson face smiling coyly before kneeling down for a man who appeared to be a man. The caption read: “Swap any face in the video!” Screen recording of the ad sent to the address Twitter 3.2 million views.
Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to replace one person’s likeness with another in videos and other digital media, and its use has raised ethical and privacy concerns.
A lawyer told Insider that this is just one illustration of how emerging deep counterfeiting technology can be used as a “weapon” against women and girls.
Attorney Michael Farhi, who has previously published material on the topic, told Insider that the use of artificial intelligence “is going to lead to a big jump in the way it’s a weapon against women around the world.” She added that women are the most popular demographic to be targeted with such harassment.
According to Farhi, deepfaking and revenge porn are already a threat to women, and AI technology that can make fake videos convincingly real will “quadruple” the negative effects.
The Facemega ad ran on Meta-owned Facebook until the site removed it following coverage by NBC News, which reported that the app also ran ads featuring Scarlett Johansson’s face in provocative videos. Facemega was free on Apple and Google Play, both of which have since been removed, but similar apps are still listed on both stores.
An Apple spokesperson told Insider that the company has removed the app from the Apple Store and that the company does not allow apps that use defamatory, pornographic or lewd content to humiliate others. A Google spokesperson said the company took “appropriate action” and removed the app “for violating our policies.”
Legal representation for Watson could not be reached.
The suggestive ad appeared to violate Facemega’s own terms of service, which prohibit users from uploading defamatory or sexually explicit content.
The Chinese software company Wondershare owns Facemega, the company’s spokesperson confirmed to Insider. When asked about the ad, a Wondershare spokesperson said: “Our legal department is already following up on the matter and the ad content has also been removed from the shelves.”
Deepfake technology will be used as a “weapon” against women, the lawyer said
In the United States, victims of counterfeit porn have “potential claims like defamation, invasion of privacy, emotional distress,” Farhi told Insider. But he also said it would be an “obstacle” to initiate international legal action against a Chinese company.
“A lawyer anywhere in the US sending a cease-and-desist letter to a Chinese entity, even if properly translated, will have little or no practical effect. So where do we go from here? Facebook, which has its own challenging rules and regulations are about what you post and what ads you place,” Farhi said.
According to Farhi, public pressure against the companies that share the content can be more effective than legal action. He added that “technology is evolving too quickly to be regulated by law.” Deepfake technology, like any technological development, has “pros and cons”, but Farhi says the potential harm has been “swept under the carpet”.
“AI advocates, of course, push the idea that you can get instant research, instant help with work. For creators, it’s a great tool and a great tool,” Farhi said. “It will be a terrible nightmare, even more so than what we have now, as a tool or weapon to harm women.”
According to Farhi, a particularly vulnerable group is likely to be teenage girls, who are already regularly bombarded by revenge and fake porn.
“This is going to cause serious harm to a lot of girls and women. Not just in high school, before high school, at the elementary or high school level, all the way to women in their twenties, thirties and beyond,” Farhi said. “And the easier it is, or the it’s easier for a predator—and it’s going to be a lot easier—the more you have to do.”
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