Each passing day brings technological advancements with mind-blowing implications, both good and bad. Actress Scarlett Johansson is trying to bring people's attention to a program called Deepfakes, which can be used to put the heads of celebrities onto the bodies of adult film stars.
Johansson warned people about the dangers of the software, which uses artificial intelligence to produce sometimes eerily realistic videos.
She said in an interview with the Washington Post:
"Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else's onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired. The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause… the internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself."
Johansson brought up concerns that it's "just a matter of time before any one person is targeted." Considering the program's open source-code and rapid spread since first being reported on by Motherboard in 2017, she may just be right.
Using the software, nearly anyone with a working knowledge of coding can, in theory, create a pornographic video starring their favorite actor or actress...or even acquaintances from real life. The ethical quandaries surrounding this possibility are countless, but our society has yet to grapple with it in any palpable, legal way.
The Washington Post pointed out that one video, created by Deepfakes and supposedly starring Johansson, has received more than 1.5 million views "on a leading porn site."
Johansson's likeness has been used without her permission in the past, including in 2011 when she was one of many celebrities whose private nude photos were leaked online, and another instance in which a Japanese sex robot was manufactured to resemble her.
An "anatomically correct" Scarlett Johansson robot youtu.be
Other celebrities have spoken out against Deepfakes in the past:
You Won't Believe What Obama Says In This Video! 😉 youtu.be
It's Getting Harder to Spot a Deep Fake Video www.youtube.com
The actress is skeptical, however, that anything can be done to completely halt the use of someone else's identity online:
"The internet is just another place where sex sells and vulnerable people are preyed upon. And any low level hacker can steal a password and steal and identity."
In September 2018, Google gave individuals the ability to flag nudes of themselves online (blocking them from appearing in search results), yet courts have taken no actions to halt the spread of programs like Deepfakes. Though its detractors believe uses such as those described above should be considered "defamatory or fraudulent," others think videos produced with the software should be protected under people's first amendment rights.
One thing is certain: the internet is scared of what Deepfakes may be capable of.
We hope action is taken to make sure the harmful use of this technology comes with consequences.