Taylor Swift: How Twitter and Microsoft are trying to combat AI nudity

Deepfakes
Fighting Windmills: How Twitter and Microsoft Are Trying to Combat Taylor Swift’s AI Nude Photos

Megastar Taylor Swift likes to put on a big show. But she would definitely have liked to avoid the attention of the weekend

©George Walker/AP

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest stars of the moment – and has been seen naked by millions of people. At least apparently. After a deepfake scandal, Microsoft and X, formerly Twitter, desperately pulled the handbrake with very different measures.

The images spread like wildfire. Whether as a naked cheerleader, stripping in the limousine or in the middle of the act: pop megastar Taylor Swift had suddenly become a porn star. Many people didn’t seem to mind that the images weren’t real but were created with AI. Swift and her fans were understandably outraged. Now X seems to have finally gotten the flood of porn fakes under control. Also Microsoft technically put a stop to deepfakes.

The first emergency brake was pulled on Elon Musk’s short message service X over the weekend. If you searched for Swift on the service formerly called Twitter, the site would only spit out an error message. Joe Benarroch, business manager at The search has been working again since Monday. “We will continue to be vigilant about whether such content is shared and then remove it,” said Benarroch. He did not reveal how exactly the company plans to monitor this.

Twitter chaos over pictures of Taylor Swift

In fact, the false porn images had made the rounds rapidly, especially on Twitter. The images, which were first distributed on the rather obscure imageboard 4chan and in Telegram channels, only received greater attention when they appeared on the short message service. The attention there literally exploded. According to The Verge, individual images received over 45 million views and were forwarded up to 25,000 times.

The fact that this was possible is also due to the current state of the service – and is therefore at least indirectly Elon Musk’s responsibility. Shortly after taking over Twitter, it radically cut back its workforce. The fact that the money-saving measure hit the moderation teams particularly hard was entirely intentional. From Musk’s perspective, monitoring posted content was seen as censorship – and stood in the way of his vision of a platform for freedom of expression.

The fact that the search for Taylor Swift was now restricted caused skepticism among many users. A completely different theory quickly made the rounds: The singer had recently taken a clear political position on several occasions – and was drumming for the Democrats in the upcoming US election in the fall. Could Musk, who is considered conservative, have limited the search in order to deprive Swift of a stage? However, the fact that the search for the singer has been working normally again since Monday should take the wind out of the sails of these theories.

Microsoft sees no error – and fixes it

At another company, employees apparently worked extra shifts at the weekend because of the Swift deepfakes. Instructions were distributed in the Telegram channels and on 4chan on how to trick the AI ​​of the Microsoft “Designer” program so that it also spits out sexual content. The barriers that are actually intended to prevent depictions of celebrities can also be overcome using simple means. It is said to have been enough to deliberately misspell names or describe sexual acts instead of naming them.

Microsoft claims to have found no evidence that the fakes were created using its own software, the company told “404 Media”. “We have large teams to develop policies and security measures to enable responsible use of AI,” a Microsoft spokesperson told the site. But something was apparently happening in the background. The gaps that could demonstrably still be used before the weekend had disappeared on Monday.

The fact that the danger goes beyond naked pictures of celebrities has also reached the White House. US President Joe Biden declared in a press conference that they were taking the increasing challenge seriously and were working on solutions. It’s not just about celebrities. “We know that young women and girls are particularly affected by the consequences of this technology,” said press spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

Sources:Wall Street Journal“, 404 Media, NBC

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