- Many were outraged this week over a desktop app called DeepNude, that allows users to remove clothing from pictures of women to make them look naked.
- Vice’s Motherboard published an article where they tested the app’s capabilities on pictures of celebrities and found that it only works on women.
- Motherboard described the app as “easier to use, and more easily accessible than deepfakes have ever been.”
- The app’s developers later pulled it from sale after much criticism, but the new technology has reignited debate about the need for social media companies and lawmakers to regulate and moderate deepfakes.
The New Deepfake App
Developers pulled a new desktop app called DeepNude that let users utilize deepfake technology to remove clothing from pictures of women to make them look naked.
The app was removed after an article published by Vice New’s tech publication Motherboard expressed concerns over the technology.
Motherboard downloaded and tested the app on more than a dozen pictures of both men and women. They found that while the app does work on women who are fully clothed, it works best on images where people are already showing more skin.
“The results vary dramatically,” the article said. “But when fed a well lit, high resolution image of a woman in a bikini facing the camera directly, the fake nude images are passably realistic.”
The article also contained several of the images Motherboard tested, including photos of celebrities like Taylor Swift, Tyra Banks, Natalie Portman, Gal Gadot, and Kim Kardashian. The pictures were later removed from the article.
Motherboard reported that the app explicitly only works on women. “When Motherboard tried using an image of a man,” they wrote, “It replaced his pants with a vulva.”
Motherboard emphasized how frighteningly accessible the app is. “DeepNude is easier to use, and more easily accessible than deepfakes have ever been,” they reported.
Anyone can get the app for free, or they can purchase a premium version. Motherboard reported that the premium version costs $50, but a screenshot published in the Verge indicated that it was $99.
In the free version, the output image is partly covered by a watermark. In the paid version, the watermark is removed but there is a stamp that says “FAKE” in the upper-left corner.
However, as Motherboard notes, it would be extremely easy to crop out the “FAKE” stamp or remove it with photoshop.
On Thursday, the day after Motherboard published the article, DeepNude announced on their Twitter account that they had pulled the app.
“Despite the safety measures adopted (watermarks) if 500,000 people use it, the probability that people will misuse it is too high,” the statement said. “We don’t want to make money this way. Surely some copies of DeepNude will be shared on the web, but we don’t want to be the ones who sell it.”
“The world is not yet ready for DeepNude,” the statement concluded. The DeepNude website has now been taken down.
Where Did it Come From?
According to the Twitter account for DeepNude, the developers launched downloadable software for the app for Windows and Linux on June 23.
After a few days, the apps developers had to move the website offline because it was receiving too much traffic, according to DeepNude’s Twitter.
Currently, it is unclear who these developers are or where they are from. Their Twitter account lists their location as Estonia, but does not provide more information.
Motherboard was able to reach the anonymous creator by email, who requested to go by the name Alberto. Alberto told them that the app’s software is based on an open source algorithm called pix2pix that was developed by researchers at UC Berkeley back in 2017.
That algorithm is similar to the ones used for deepfake videos, and weirdly enough it’s also similar to the technology that self-driving cars use to formulate driving scenarios.
Alberto told Motherboard that the algorithm only works on women because “images of nude women are easier to find online,” but he said he wants to make a male version too.
Alberto also told Motherboard that during his development process, he asked himself if it was morally questionable to make the app, but ultimately decided it was not because he believed that the invention of the app was inevitable.
“I also said to myself: the technology is ready (within everyone’s reach),” Alberto told Motherboard. “So if someone has bad intentions, having DeepNude doesn’t change much… If I don’t do it, someone else will do it in a year.”
The Need for Regulation
This inevitability argument is one that has been discussed often in the debates surrounding deepfakes.
It also goes along with the idea that even if these deepfakes are banned by Pornhub and Reddit, they are just going to pop up in other places. These kind of arguments are also an important part of the discussion of how to detect and regulate deepfakes.
Motherboard showed the DeepNude app to Hany Farid, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley who is an expert on deepfakes. Faird said that he was shocked by how easily the app created the fakes.
Usually, deepfake videos take hours to make. By contrast, DeepNude only takes about 30 seconds to render these images.
“We are going to have to get better at detecting deepfakes,” Farid told Motherboard. “In addition, social media platforms are going to have to think more carefully about how to define and enforce rules surrounding this content.”
“And, our legislators are going to have to think about how to thoughtfully regulate in this space.”
The Role of Social Media
The need for social media platforms and politicians to regulate this kind of content has become increasingly prevalent in the discussion about deepfakes.
Over the last few years, deepfakes have become widespread internationally, but any kind of laws or regulations have been unable to keep up with the technology.
On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company is looking into ways to deal with deepfakes during a conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
He did not say exactly how Facebook is doing this, but he did say that the problem from his perspective was how deepfakes are defined.
“Is it AI-manipulated media or manipulated media using AI that makes someone say something they didn’t say?” Zuckerberg said. “I think that’s probably a pretty reasonable definition.”
However, that definition is also exceptionally narrow. Facebook recently received significant backlash after it decided not to take down a controversial video of Nancy Pelosi that had been slowed down, making her drunk or impaired.
Zuckerberg said he argued that the video should be left up because it is better to show people fake content than hide it. However, experts worry that that kind of thinking could set a dangerous precedent for deepfakes.
The Role of Lawmakers
On Monday, lawmakers in California proposed a bill that would ban deepfakes in the state. The assemblymember that introduced the bill said he did it because of the Pelosi video.
On the federal level, similar efforts to regulate deepfake technology have been stalled.
Separate bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate to criminalize deepfakes, but both of the bills have only been referred to committees, and it is unclear whether or not they have even been discussed by lawmakers.
However, even if these bills do move forward, there are a lot of legal hurdles they have to go through. An attorney named Carrie Goldberg, whose law firm specializes in revenge porn, spoke to Motherboard about these issues.
“It’s a real bind,” said Goldberg. “Deepfakes defy most state revenge porn laws because it’s not the victim’s own nudity depicted, but also our federal laws protect the companies and social media platforms where it proliferates.”
However, the article’s author, Samantha Cole, also argued that the political narratives around deepfakes leave out the women victimized by them.
“Though deepfakes have been weaponized most often against unconsenting women, most headlines and political fear of them have focused on their fake news potential,” she wrote.
That idea of deepfakes being “fake news” or disinformation seems to be exactly how Zuckerberg and Facebook are orienting their policies.
Moving forward, many feel that policy discussions about deepfakes should also consider how the technology disproportionately affects women and can be tied to revenge porn.
See what others are saying: (Vice) (The Verge) (The Atlantic)
Chick-fil-A Stops Donations Long-Criticized by LGBTQ Activists
- Chick-fil-A announced a new donation policy, listing a smaller number of groups it plans on giving to in 2020, which notably does not include Christian groups with anti-LGBTQ ties like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Salvation Army.
- Some applauded the move, while others were upset and saw it as Chick-fil-A abandoning their Christian morals.
- Their new donation plan, however, only accounts for 2020. They will reassess charities annually and said they could still donate to religiously affiliated groups in the future.
Chick-Fil-A Announces New Donations Policy
Chick-fil-A announced its 2020 charity donations on Monday, prompting widespread reactions and backlash online.
The fast-food giant said that going into the new year, it will start giving to a “smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.” In order to do so, it will partner with Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House International, and local food banks in 120 communities.
Notably missing from the list, however, were Christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. Chick-fil-A has come under fire for donating to these groups in the past due to their anti-LGBTQ views.
On their website, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes states that “sexual intimacy is to be expressed only within the context of marriage” and then defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” On their student leader application form, they require applicants to sign a sexual purity statement, which states that “homosexual acts” are a sin.
In 2012, the Salvation Army came under fire when a spokesperson implied that gay people deserved to die in a radio interview with Australian reporters. Today, the Salvation Army has a page on its website devoted to helping the LGBTQ homeless population.
“The Salvation Army is committed to serving the LGBTQ community through,” their site says.
The company used to donate to more groups with similar ideologies but stopped giving to several throughout the years. Still, since Chick-fil-A continued to give regularly and generously to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, many boycotted them for supporting charities with anti-LGBTQ stances.
In the last year alone, the company has canceled the opening of a location in Buffalo, New York after backlash, announced the closure of its first UK location just days after it opened, and saw massive protests when it opened a Toronto location.
Reactions to Announcement
Some applauded Chick-fil-A for making this decision, seeing it as them stepping back from anti-LGBTQ groups. Many who had previously boycotted the location said they were excited to finally eat there.
Baby steps but this is a good thing. Everyone has the ability to change their opinions even when it’s a big restaurant chain Chick-fil-A. I’m happy to see they are taking steps to change their image when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.— James Morgenroth (@AtheistsRise) November 18, 2019
Some, however, were a bit more cautious. One person said that just because they have made this one move “doesn’t mean they have suddenly changed.”
The Salvation Army released a statement that did not mention Chick-Fil-A by name, but expressed disappointment with the choice.
“We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed,” the statement said. “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”
“In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population,” the Salvation Army continued. “When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk.”
They were not the only ones upset with Chick-Fil-A about this. Some customers, including Mike Huckabee, saw it as the company abandoning their Christian values and betraying its core clientele.
Some found this backlash to not add up, noting that the causes Chick-fil-A still plans to donate to do connect to Christian morals.
Many online also tied this to the other major reason Chick-fil-A has made headlines recently: its ongoing sandwich war with Popeyes. They noted that the timing of this announcement comes right as Popeyes brought their popular chicken sandwich back into stores.
A report from Business Insider, however, says that this is not the case. A representative from Chick-fil-A told them their donations have nothing to do with Popeyes and have been in the works prior to the sandwich wars.
Potential Future Donations
As far as Chick-fil-A’s donation policy, it still does open the door for the company to donate to groups like the Salvation Army or Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the future. Their latest announcement only applies to 2020 donations.
Their statement said that going forward, Chick-fil-A will “reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact. These partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Associated Press) (The Washington Post)
Pet Shop Employee Fired After Streamer Catches Disturbing Dog Throwing on Video
- A Twitch user streaming inside an LA pet shop caught an employee violently throwing a dog whose head can be heard hitting the ground in a now-viral clip.
- The store owner quickly apologized for the incident on social media, saying that the dog is doing fine and was taken to a veterinarian.
- The owner added that the worker in question is no longer employed at the business.
Dog Throwing Caught on Live Stream
An employee at a Los Angeles, California pet shop and rehoming center is no longer working at the store after they were caught on a live stream violently throwing a dog onto a concrete floor.
The incident happened Wednesday at Bark n’ Bitches Dog Boutique, a business that describes itself on its website as “L.A.’s first HUMANE Pet Shop.”
Twitch user RIPRoyce, whose real name is Royce Thomas, happened to be live streaming at the shop and caught the disturbing incident on camera.
In a clip from the stream, which has since shocked many across social media, it appears that one dog begins to bite at a smaller puppy. Then, the employee in question separates them by aggressively grabbing the dog by the back of its neck and throwing it onto the ground.
A hard thud can be heard as the dog hits the floor offscreen. Witnesses gasp and are stunned by what they’ve just seen.
The dog is visibly shaken by the throw and hides under a nearby bench to recover. When witnesses go over to console the animal, they can be heard saying that it landed on its head.
Thomas told ABC7 that she never saw the employee again after the incident. She added that another employee came to hold the dog and tried to calm customers.
According to Thomas, some people in the store and some of her followers have contacted police about the incident.
Shop Owner Responds
The clip sparked outrage on social media, with many calling for the employee to be fired or charged over the incident.
The pet shop posted a public apology later that night on its social media pages, with its owner Shannon von Roemer writing, “My deepest apologies for this incident. The dog was playing and acting normal after this horrific incident. She was taken to the vet and was cleared 100%. We are grateful. #rescuedogs #inexcusable #rescuedogsrule”
A text image included with the apology also called the incident “inexcusable” and added, “We will not tolerate this or any actions that put our rescues in harms way. The appropriate actions are being taken. This is NOT what we stand for.”
A few hours later, the owner followed up with a video where she thanked everyone who has reached out to them with their concerns. “We’ve been in business for almost 14 years, and this is a first,” she said.
“I just want you to be rest assured that all actions will be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I do want you to know that the employee is no longer with us and that the dog is actually doing dine and did go to the vet.”
Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch
- After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
- Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
- Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.
With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle.
On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation.
When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message.
Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”
Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”
The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen.
The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.
Apple TV+ Executive Leaves
Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+.
Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.
Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable.
Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place.
Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons.
Future of Streaming
These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming.
Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight.
With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?
Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.