Deepfake explicit images of Taylor Swift spread on social media

FILE - Taylor Swift wears a Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce jacket as she arrives before an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. A scourge of pornographic deepfake images generated by artificial intelligence and sexualizing people without their consent has hit its most famous victim, singer Taylor Swift, drawing attention to a problem that tech platforms and anti-abuse groups have struggled to solve.
FILE - Taylor Swift wears a Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce jacket as she arrives before an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. A scourge of pornographic deepfake images generated by artificial intelligence and sexualizing people without their consent has hit its most famous victim, singer Taylor Swift, drawing attention to a problem that tech platforms and anti-abuse groups have struggled to solve. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File)

NEW YORK — Pornographic deepfake images of Taylor Swift are circulating online, making the singer the most famous victim of a scourge that tech platforms and anti-abuse groups have struggled to fix.

Sexually explicit and abusive fake images of Swift began circulating widely this week on the social media platform X.

Her ardent fanbase of “Swifties” quickly mobilized, launching a counteroffensive on the platform formerly known as Twitter and a #ProtectTaylorSwift hashtag to flood it with more positive images of the pop star. Some said they were reporting accounts that were sharing the deepfakes.

The deepfake-detecting group Reality Defender said it tracked a deluge of nonconsensual pornographic material depicting Swift, particularly on X. Some images also made their way to Meta-owned Facebook and other social media platforms.

“Unfortunately, they spread to millions and millions of users by the time that some of them were taken down,” said Mason Allen, Reality Defender’s head of growth.

The researchers found at least a couple dozen unique AI-generated images. The most widely shared were football-related, showing a painted or bloodied Swift that objectified her and in some cases inflicted violent harm on her deepfake persona.

Deepfake victims

Researchers have said the number of explicit deepfakes have grown in the past few years, as the technology used to produce such images has become more accessible and easier to use. In 2019, a report released by the AI firm DeepTrace Labs showed these images were overwhelmingly weaponized against women. Most of the victims, it said, were Hollywood actors and South Korean K-pop singers.

Brittany Spanos, a senior writer at Rolling Stone who teaches a course on Swift at New York University, says Swift’s fans are quick to mobilize in support of their artist, especially those who take their fandom very seriously and in situations of wrongdoing.

“This could be a huge deal if she really does pursue it to court,” she said.

Spanos says the deep fake pornography issue aligns with others Swift has had in the past, pointing to her 2017 lawsuit against a radio station DJ who allegedly groped her; jurors awarded Swift $1 in damages, a sum her attorney, Douglas Baldridge, called “a single symbolic dollar, the value of which is immeasurable to all women in this situation” in the midst of the MeToo movement. (The $1 lawsuit became a trend thereafter, like in Gwyneth Paltrow’s 2023 countersuit against a skier.)

When reached for comment on the fake images of Swift, X directed the The Associated Press to a post from its safety account that said the company strictly prohibits the sharing of non-consensual nude images on its platform. The company has also sharply cut back its content-moderation teams since Elon Musk took over the platform in 2022.

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