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Senator Durbin questions Google over sexually explicit deepfakes

Senator Durbin questions Google over sexually explicit deepfakes

 


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday sent a letter to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, asking for details about how the platform plans to combat non-consensual, sexually explicit deepfakes.

Google searches for the term deepfake or the names of female celebrities often return links to such content when safety features are turned off, driving a surge in web traffic to websites where people can view or purchase non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes. The Google Play app store also features tools advertising the ability to create such content, and YouTube (also owned and operated by Alphabet) hosts a number of fake news videos using deepfake technology.

Deepfakes are deceptive digital media generated or altered using artificial intelligence. One of the most common types of deepfakes replaces the faces of women and girls with pornographic content. This material often features celebrities, but is increasingly being used to victimize middle and high school girls around the world.

Google searches direct users to apps that create non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes and platforms that host them; Google Play hosts apps used to create non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes; and YouTube hosts tutorials on how to create non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes, Durbin said in the letter provided exclusively to NBC News. While Alphabet has recently taken limited steps to address these issues, the company needs to be more proactive.

Senator Durbin is one of the senators leading a national legislative movement against the growing threat of non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes. His DEFIANCE Act, the Stop Explicit Fake Images and Non-Consensual Edits Act of 2024, would create a path for victims of deepfakes to sue the creators and distributors of the material. Last week, Senator Durbin called for unanimous consent to pass the bill, with one dissenter from Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.

In his letter to Pichai, Durbin highlighted data collected by independent researcher Genevieve Oh, who found that the number of non-consensual, sexually explicit deepfake videos uploaded online has increased ninefold since 2019, garnering nearly 4 billion video views, the majority of which depict women in the public eye, Durbin's letter said.

Durbin wrote that the creation and distribution of non-consensual sexually explicit deepfakes is abusive, violates the privacy of, and causes lasting harm to victims, and further suggested that Google's practice of asking victims of deepfakes to fill out a removal form for search results that contain the material is insufficient: Alphabet cannot simply push the responsibility for policing this material onto victimized individuals.

Durbin ended his letter by asking Alphabet to provide him with information by June 28 about what steps Google is taking to remove from search results non-consensual, sexually explicit deepfakes and URLs that lead to apps used to create them, as well as how Google Play enforces its terms of service against apps used to create deepfakes.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/sen-durbin-questions-google-sexually-explicit-deepfakes-rcna157592

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