Connect with us

Business

Deepfake App Pulled After Many Expressed Concerns

Published

on

  • 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)

Advertisements

Business

Reddit Co-Founder Resigns From Board, Asks to Be Replaced by a Black Candidate

Published

on

  • Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the company’s board and called for the position to be filled by a black candidate, which CEO Steve Huffman agreed to do. 
  • The move comes days after former CEO Ellen Pao slammed the platform for allowing subreddits that promote hate, violence, and white supremacy to remain active.
  • Subreddit moderators agreed, protesting against inadequate hate speech policies by making their communities private, among other actions.
  • In his message about honoring Ohanian’s request, Huffman promised to do more to combat hate on the site. 

Resignation

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced his resignation from the company’s board of directors Friday, urging that his seat be filled by a black candidate.

As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd, businesses and industry leaders have faced mounting pressure to take meaningful steps that support the black community and fight against racism. “I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’” Ohanian explained in a blog post, on social media, and in a video message. 

Ohanian, who is married to professional tennis paly Serena Williams, also committed to using future gains from his Reddit stock to help the black community, “chiefly to curb racial hate.” To start, he pledged $1 million to former NFL play and activist Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. 

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop,” he added in his statement.

Recent Criticism of Reddit’s Policies

The move came just days after the site faced heavy criticism for allowing subreddits to remain active, like r/the_donald, which has been known to promote white supremacist content.

It’s most vocal critic was former CEO Ellen Pao, who responded to the company’s June 1 message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In a letter from current CEO Steve Huffman, the company said, “we do not tolerate hate, racism, and violence, and while we have work to do to fight these on our platform, our values are clear.”

To that, Pao said: “I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”

Pao wasn’t alone in that opinion. Following her comments, many subreddit communities took collective action to protest police brutality and racism, as well as Reddit’s failure to adequately deal with racist rhetoric and hateful content on its platform.

On Wednesday subreddits like r/NFL, r/military, r/AskReddit, r/EDM, r/DankMemes, r/AskHistorians and dozens of others across a variety of genres went private. In a post on r/MaleFashionAdvice, a moderator called out Reddit’s “blatant hypocrisy” in allowing hateful subreddits to exist while publicly condemning police brutality.

“To us, actions speak louder than words,” the moderator u/BespokeDebtor wrote Wednesday. “The admins have repeatedly demonstrated a tolerance for such behavior and provided sanctuary to the very people they’re supposedly condemning.”

Protest action varied across each community, but many moderators banned new posts for either a full day or eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Geoge Floyd had a knee pressed into his neck by a white officer before dying. 

CEO Responds to Resignation and Criticism 

Following Ohanian’s announcement, Huffman published another message to the Reddit community promising to honor the co-founder’s request.

However, he spent a great deal of time addressing how the company plans to address hateful content. 

“We’re working with mods to change our content policy to explicitly address hate,” Huffman added. “I want to take responsibility for the history of our policies over the years that got us here, and we still have work to do.”

Huffman said there are three problems Redding is most focused on.

  • Parts of Reddit reflect an unflattering but real resemblance to the world in the hate that Black users and communities see daily, despite the progress we have made in improving our tooling and enforcement.
  • Users and moderators genuinely do not have enough clarity as to where we as administrators stand on racism.
  • Our moderators are frustrated and need a real seat at the table to help shape the policies that they help us enforce.

Though he admitted that the site is already trying to address these issues, he promised more urgency.  

“We will update our content policy to include a vision for Reddit and its communities to aspire to, a statement on hate, the context for the rules, and a principle that Reddit isn’t to be used as a weapon,” he continued. 

“We have details to work through, and while we will move quickly, I do want to be thoughtful and also gather feedback from our moderators (through our Mod Councils). With more moderator engagement, the timeline is weeks, not months.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (DailyDot) (CNBC

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Business

How Companies Have Responded to the Killing of George Floyd

Published

on

Photo: Andy Manis/ The State Journal

  • As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd, many have pushed brands to speak out against racism and police brutality. 
  • Countless companies have responded, with some donating supplies and legal defense funds.
  • Others in the music industry plan to suspend operations Tuesday and instead discuss how they can support the black community. 
  • However, one of the most criticized statements came from the NFL, who was slammed as disingenuous given their handling of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests.

Target’s Statement

Like celebrities, many companies have also been hit with pressure to address George Floyd’s death. So over the last week, several have released statements condemning racism and expressing their solidarity with the black community. 

One of the biggest companies people turned to for comment was Target, which is actually based in Minneapolis. Target stores have been notably ransacked and set on fire in protests across the country. But even so, Target released a statement Friday in support of the demonstrations. 

Company Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell penned a letter acknowledging the pain felt across America over the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, adding, “We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts.”

Then, he said teams were preparing truckloads of first aid equipment, bottled water,  and other essentials “to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies.”

He also promised to give full pay and benefits to all displaced team members, including over 200 from the Minneapolis store that was set on fire last week. This response was met with a ton of praise from those who were glad to see Target prioritize people over property and replaceable goods. 

Still, while the company supports the protests, it made a decision the following day to temporarily close or shorten hours at nearly 200 stores for the safety of employees and guests. Team members impacted by this will be paid up to 14 days of scheduled hours during closures, including COVID-19 premium pay.  

Countless Others Show Support 

Target was just one of the countless brands that addressed the topic of racism and police brutality. We saw brands like Nike and Adidas speak out. Others like Hot Topic and Glossier have promised to donate money toward legal defense funds. 

Tech giants like Twitter, Google, Apple, Facebook, and TikTok all raised their voices, along with other entertainment players like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Warner Brothers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many, many others. 

The music industry, for its part, has organized a blackout for Tuesday, June 2, using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. As part of the initiative, several record labels have vowed to postpone new music releases and suspend business operations, calling it a day to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.” 

View this post on Instagram

#theshowmustbepaused

A post shared by @ theshowmustbepaused on

But while a flood of companies have released statements, in some cases, it actually took a lot of pushing and public call outs for brands to speak up. 

For example, beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina called out clothing stores like Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Things, and Revolve for staying silent about issues facing the black community. That eventually prompted brand CEOs to reach out to her for advice or make official statements on their own.

NFL Statement Receives Criticism 

And just because a company released a statement, doesn’t mean it was well-received. In fact, one of the most criticized statements came from the National Football League.

In a message from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL expressed condolences to the families of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery. It also said: “We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address the systemic issues together with our platers, clubs and partners.”

That statement did not sit well with a lot of people given the NFL’s history with Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016, famously began kneeling during the national anthem to protest the very same issues people are speaking up against now. 

Many feel the NFL failed to back Kapernick at the time when he and others faced criticism from the President and team owners. Many also believe he’s been blacklisted from the league as a result of his activism. So now, this statement is being viewed as disingenuous since the organization already had a major opportunity to support the black community. 

Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills said “Save the bulls—,” in response to the statement. 

Director Ava DuVernay tweeted: “Shame on you. This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. ” 

Sports reporter Jemele Hill wrote, “The NFL tweeting about what happened with George Floyd is the equivalent of when the CIA recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Loved him so much y’all helped to kill him. Get outta here with the bullshit.”

As of now, it seems like people are continuing to push for action from their favorite brands and celebs, arguing that silence is complicity.

Though there have been an overwhelming amount of companies condemning racism, it’ll be important to see which of these groups actually remain committed to supporting the black community in the long run. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Forbes) (Billboard

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Business

Customers Have Mixed Opinions About COVID-19 Surcharges

Published

on

  • Customers have begun noticing “COVID-19 surcharges” on their bills at some restaurants across the U.S.
  • Those outraged by the fees have been calling and harassing restaurants that are adding them, meanwhile, others argue that it’s a small price to pay to help keep these businesses open. 
  • Business owners have said the temporary fees are adjusted weekly to help cover the increased costs of meat, protective gear, and take-out packaging. 
  • They have also stressed that they are not trying to “get rich” off these charges but are just trying to take care of their staff and businesses during the pandemic.

Negative Reactions to Surcharges 

Several customers across the country have noted a coronavirus “surcharge” attached to the bottom of their restaurant bills, prompting a flood of different reactions online.

A $2.19 charge spotted at a restaurant in Missouri sparked a ton of frustration. “Scuse me … what? A covid surcharge…?” a woman posted on Twitter after she found the viral photo online and shared it.

That was met with loads of comments from users saying they would never pay such a charge, while others called it a small price to pay to help support the business.  

Billy Yuzar, the owner and manager of the Japanese steakhouse and sushi lounge, told Fox News that the surcharge was advertised online, as well on the store’s front door and register. He also added that he hadn’t heard any complaints from customers but was bombarded with negative reviews from people who haven’t ever visited his establishment. 

The restaurant eventually took to Facebook to defend itself after employees began facing harassment over the photo. “Please understand we are not doing this to take advantage of you guys!” it said.

“We are doing this hoping we can adjust the surcharge weekly rather than just raise all of our prices on our menu due to increase prices from our supplier on meat, poultry, seafood & produce.”

The restaurant also noted that businesses in the community, which use the same suppliers,  were also adding similar fees. “So why are we the one that [is] being harassed??!! Stop calling names to my employees!!” the post continued.  

In the end, the restaurant apologized, saying it will remove the charge and instead increase prices. It also linked out a CNBC report about changes in the meat supply chain related to the pandemic.

It is true that other restaurants in the area have implemented similar policies. Bootleggers BBQ, another West Plains restaurant, announced it was adding a 5% charge starting on May 8, and customers were initially supportive.

However, the restaurant was later met with several calls and messages accusing it of ripping off customers. “Sadly, these calls were from people out of our area and mostly out of state, not even our customers,” the owner Brian Stacck told NBC’s TODAY.

It too eventually decided to increase prices and remove certain items from its menu in place of the surcharge, promising to print new menus at least once a week to reflect its current limitations and changes. 

Staack told TODAY, “I have 26 employees that we have managed to keep at the same hours, or more, throughout this.”

“All I was trying to do was cover our added food cost and keep them working. But people who wouldn’t take the time to listen to me on the phone, or read our explanation on Facebook, would rather make threats.”

Not Just in Missouri, Not Just Restaurant 

Though most of the reported outrage seems to be coming from Missouri, there are other businesses across the country that have been implementing the fees and price increased for coronavirus related circumstances. 

In San Diego, one Mexican restaurant added a $1 extra charge for carne asada due to meat shortages.

View this post on Instagram

Covid carne asada surcharge: $1.

A post shared by Reviewer Magazine (@reviewermag) on

A Texas BBQ joint also noted a price increase for brisket until the “market stabilizes.” 

And it doesn’t just end with restaurants. A dentist’s office in Jacksonville Florida reportedly started charging an extra $10 per appointment to cover personal protective equipment. Meanwhile, in Texas, some hair salons have started adding a $3 sanitation charge, according to KTRK-TV Huston. 

While many might be upset by these extra charges, they are legal, according to Gregory Frank, a New York City-based attorney.

“Generally, restaurants are allowed to structure their pricing however they like,” Frank told TODAY. “The important question is whether the restaurants are disclosing to consumers what they are paying before they pay it, so they can make their own informed choices.”

It’s also important to note that the cost of adjusting and reprinting menus might not make the most economic sense for every restaurant, especially if it hopes that the increased prices will only be short term. 

By adding the added fee to the final sale, Frank says business can also make customers feel more comfortable because they’ll know the temporary charge is related to the current circumstances. 

Positive Reactions to Surcharges 

Still, not every business has faced as much hate for their surcharges. At Goog’s Pub & Grub in Holland, Michigan, the response to surcharges was much more positive.

The store’s general manager and co-owner Palmer White told The Daily News Thursday that it recently increased prices by $1 per order from 86 cents before. “We’ve received overwhelming support. People have been very understanding,” White said.

Like at other businesses, this change is in response to increase meat prices, but its also aimed at covering the large amount of packaging take out orders require. 

“Takeout averages about 82 cents more per meal just to put that meal out cause you’re not just putting it on a plate or tray and washing that again. It’s the silverware, the boxes,” the pub’s other co-owner, Brad White, told Fox 17. 

“When this started, we were running about $50 for a case of burgers and then it was up to $55, $62, $66, $72 last week and they just told me next week it’ll probably be up to $88 a case, so almost double what we were paying.”

The pub also noted that it had given its remaining servers raises “so they can maintain a consistent income.” 

“They’re still getting tips. Actually, we’ve been blown away by people’s generosity. But tips are based on percentages, and sales just aren’t as high without all the alcohol and desserts,” Palmer added. “We’re trying to make sure they’re being taken care of.”

Both have said they plan to remove the extra charge once the damage from the virus settles.

“We’re not doing this to get rich,” said Palmer. “We just want to see our staff is taken care of, make sure people are fed, make sure our lights are on.

See what others are saying: (The Daily News) (Fox News) (TODAY

Advertisements
Continue Reading