Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Comment Taylor Swift: deepfake images and celebrity culture

Taylor Swift: deepfake images and celebrity culture

Antonella Perna explores the deepfake images made of female celebrities, and the effect this could have on women and girls everywhere.
3 mins read
Written by
Image: Eva Rinaldi, Flickr

CONTENT WARNING: This article includes references to image-based sexual abuse, which some readers may find distressing.

Children are taught at a young age not to believe everything they see online, and with the creation of deepfake photos and videos, even as adults, this is important to remember. As technological advances focus on the development of AI, deepfakes become easier to create, even for the layman, and these programs are used largely to create fake pornographic non-consensual content of unknowing individuals. These occurrences tend to largely affect high-profile figures, the most recent victim being none other than Taylor Swift.

Arguably one of the biggest celebrities today, Swift has dominated the world. The most-streamed female artist in the world’s current Eras Tour has grossed over $1 billion cumulatively and generates massive economic boosts for the locations in which she performs. It is then as a result of her superstar status that exploitative deepfake pornographic images went viral on social media platforms Telegram and X, previously Twitter, the original post on X amassing 47 million views. Although the post has since been taken down, in the digital age, reposts, screenshots, and shares make it difficult for anything to be scrubbed from the internet forever.

Reposts, screenshots and shares make it difficult for anything to be scrubbed from the internet forever

Swift’s popularity and large number of supporters likely contributed to the high coverage of this case and the speed with which it was handled. However, this is not the first time deepfake pornography was created and widespread: it was discovered by DeepTrace Labs in 2019 that 96% of deepfake videos were pornographic material, a statistic which has likely worsened over time, as developments in technology allow for these programs to be even more accessible.

Although some U.S. states have their own legislations against deepfakes, the virality of this case has resulted in a callback to the proposed Preventing Deepfakes of Intimate Images Act, revealed by Congressman Joseph Morelle in May 2023, which would illegalize the non-consensual distribution of deepfake pornography in federal law. A co-sponsor of Morelle’s bill, Tom Kean Jr, has said: “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.” The UK outlawed this in December 2022, in an amendment to the Online Safety Bill.

Introduced in 2017, deepfake pornography has targeted numerous women, with celebrities like Scarlett Johansson falling victim to having fake, degrading images going viral. This can prove to be very dangerous, as digital footprints may impact an individual’s reputation, mental well-being, and future opportunities, to name a few. With technological advancements allowing for increasing access to the internet, and social media platforms spreading media like wildfire, regardless of its legality or reliability, the easy accessibility with which someone can create and share deepfake pornography is violating, intrusive, and disgusting, and further contributes to the dangers on the internet for women, along with possible revenge porn, harassment, and stalking. This recent reoccurrence should be used as a stepping stone to establish legislation protecting women from these threats.

Digital footprints may impact an individual’s reputation, mental wellbeing and future opportunities

You may also like

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign Up for Our Newsletter