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Deepfake App Pulled After Many Expressed Concerns

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  • 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.

Source: The Verge

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)

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Pinkwashing: The Dark Side of the Breast Cancer Awareness Industry Explained…

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Chances are you’ve seen a handful of breast cancer awareness campaigns throughout the years from the pink ribbon slapped on NFL footballs to your favorite yogurt brand changing their packing to pink every October, which is breast cancer awareness month. But did you know that there are many pink ribbon products that contain chemicals linked to cancer? 

Breast cancer activists call this phenomenon pinkwashing and it’s been happening for years. Whether it be a carcinogenic chemical found in pink ribbon perfume to pink ribbons found on alcohol, a known risk factor for breast cancer, pinkwashing touches many industries. In this deep dive, we’re going to look at why companies want to pinkwash and why it has changed how people around the world participate in breast cancer awareness campaigns. 

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Pinterest, The Knot, and Brides Will No Longer Promote Plantation Weddings

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  • Pinterest and The Knot, popular sites used for wedding planning, agreed to stop promoting content and venues that romanticize slave plantations. 
  • The decision was made after the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change penned a letter to the companies explaining the pain and insensitivity behind glamorizing properties once used to brutalize people. 
  • Brides magazine has since also agreed to enact a similar policy, though sites like Zola said promoting such content does not violate their discrimination policy.

Criticism of Plantation Weddings 

Two of the biggest internet platforms used for wedding content and planning, Pinterest and The Knot, are changing their policies to stop promoting any wedding content that romanticizes slave plantations. 

Plantation weddings have become very common in the wedding industry, however, they are often criticized for glorifying sites that were once used to enslave and brutalize millions of black people. 

Celebrities like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds still face criticism for hosting their 2012 wedding at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina. In addition to being a popular wedding venue, the property also offers history tours of its original slave cabins.

Other venues have been blasted for using decorative language that critics say minimizes the painful history of the locations. For instance, some properties have been described as “breathtaking” scenes with an “elaborate past,” or were said to have “a touch of southern charm.”

Policy Changes 

The decision to implement policy changes comes at the urging of the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change. The group sent letters to Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide, which owns The Knot and Wedding Wire, asking the companies to stop promoting plantations altogether. 

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the letter, reviewed by Buzzfeed News, read. 

“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” the letter continued. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Pinterest responded to the letter with their own announcement, saying, “Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice. We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

Pinterest has already started moderating and limiting plantation wedding content on its platform that appeared in search recommendations and notifications. It is also working to de-index Google searches for plantation weddings that direct to their site. 

Users call still search “plantation weddings” and similar terms on the site but they will be warned that some of the results may violate the site’s policies.

Source: Pinterest

Meanwhile, the Knot said it was working with Color of Change to prohibit vendors on its sites “from using language that romanticizes or glorifies a history that includes slavery.” Vendors who do not follow that rule will be removed, the company said.

“Color of Change brought an issue to light about the way venues with a history of slavery describe their properties to couples,” the Knot said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Color of Change for bringing this issue to us and for partnering with us to help educate our vendors on how to respectfully market their businesses to all couples.”

The Knot clarified that plantations will still be able to list themselves as venues. Their new guidelines are simply designed to ensure that vendors aren’t using language such as “elegant” or “charming” when referencing history that includes slavery. 

The language policy will apply to all venues listed on the Knot, not just ones that market themselves as plantations. A representative from the Knot told Buzzfeed New,  “You can imagine there could be former plantations that maybe have changed their names to manors or farms.”

The Knot’s new guidelines are expected to be officially released in the next few weeks as they continue to comb through the current vendors listed on their site. 

Color of Change Reached Out to Other Wedding Content Giants 

Along with the Knot and Pinterest, Color of Change also sent letters to Zola, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides. The group said they specifically called on these platforms to make a change because millions of couples turn to them for not only wedding inspiration but also information about potential vendors. 

Color of Change also argued that because these wedding planning platforms don’t profit directly from weddings themselves, they might be more motivated to hear their concerns. 

A spokesperson for Color of Change called Pinterest and the Knot’s efforts an “extremely massive step.” Following the news of two platform’s changes, the spokesperson added that Brides also reached out and requested a meeting.

Brides later issued a statement to Bustle saying, “Brides is an inclusive place where everyone can feel celebrated. Content glorifying plantations is not in line with our core values. We have removed these references and are actively working with Color of Change to evolve our guidelines to help ensure all our couples are supported, respected and inspired.”

As for the other platforms, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, Emily Forrest, a communications manager for Zola responded with: “After reviewing this complaint we determined it did not violate our non-discrimination policy. While we may not always agree with couples on all of their wedding details, we also respect their right to choose where and how they want to get married.”

As of now, Martha Stewart Weddings has not responded to the letter. 

See what others are saying: (Buzzfeed News) (The Washington Post) (Bustle)  

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Chick-fil-A Stops Donations Long-Criticized by LGBTQ Activists

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  • 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.

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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. 

Popeyes Speculation

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)

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