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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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Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

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  • Walmart announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes on Friday.
  • The company said it made its decision in light of the “uncertainty” regarding the products on local and federal levels.
  • Federal health officials have growing concerns about the products and have potentially linked over 500 illnesses and eight deaths to them.

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

Walmart plans to end its sale of e-cigarettes due to ongoing concerns about the products.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said Friday in a confirmed internal memo obtained by CNBC.

National Concerns About E-Cigarettes

This decision comes as both New York and Michigan have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. President Donald Trump has also suggested his interest in banning flavored products. 

Recently, federal health officials have become increasingly concerned about their potential link to serious illnesses. They investigating 530 cases of people who have contracted vaping related illnesses. Eight people have died from diseases believed to be related to vaping since August. 

This is not the first decision of this sort the company has made this year. Back in May, Walmart said it would raise its minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 to prevent possible sales to minors.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Engadget)

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School Shooting-Themed Hoodies Slammed by Gun Violence Victims

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  • A fashion brand faced criticism for designing hoodies that featured bullet holes along with the names of schools that were sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 
  • Bstroy, a streetwear line known for rebellious designs, said it wanted to make a bold statement about gun violence “while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
  • While the hoodies were just created for their New York fashion show, the designers are now considering selling the sweatshirts despite widespread outrage from victims.

School Shooting Sweatshirts 

A fashion brand known as Bstroy sparked outrage on social media after designing school shooting-themed hoodies for a show during New York Fashion Week.

The brand’s latest collection, designed by Brick Owens and Duey Catorze, featured distressed hoodies with the names of schools that were all impacted by gun violence and even included bullet hole details throughout each piece.  

The schools included in the show were Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, all sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 

Backlash From Victims 

Photos from the runway posted to Instagram over the weekend were quickly met with a wave of backlash from commenters who identified themselves as shooting survivors and friends or relatives of gun violence victims. 

Comments below Instagram images posted to Bstroy and Owens’ accounts.

A spokesperson for the Vicky Soto Memorial Fund, which was created after teacher Victoria Soto was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, took to Twitter to call the designs “absolutely horrific.”

“A company is [making] light of our pain and other’s pain for fashion,” she continued. “Selling sweatshirts with our name and bullet holes. Unbelievable.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie died during the Stoneman Douglas shooting also tweeted, “This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”

Shawn Sherlock, the aunt of another Stoneman Douglas victim named Gina Rose Montalto, said the company “should be ashamed of taking advantage of [her niece’s] death to make money.”

More About Bstroy

Bstroy, which describes itself as a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House,” was featured in a New York Times piece published last week about the next generation of high-end streetwear. The Times specifically pointed to the brand’s rebellious takes on classic designs.

They’re probably most well known for their double-edge jeans, which essentially look like two pairs of jeans stitched together at the ankle holes, as well as their Nike shoes dipped in concrete. 

@bstroy.us
Source: Theface.com

According to the paper, the brand has also designed “graphic T-shirts that nod to preppy interests like tennis and fencing, but with the sports gear replaced by guns.”

@bstroy.us

“We are making violent statements,” one designer told The Times. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”

Bstroy’s Response 

Late Tuesday, Owens posted a handout from the show on Instagram that read: “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential.”

In an email sent to the Today show, Owens explained that he and Catorze were trying to make a bold statement. “We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes,” the designer wrote.

“Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other,” he wrote.

The designers also spoke to The Cut about the response to the collection and said, “People get the opportunity to form their opinions before they get all the information and here we see the internal desire of society rear its head.” 

“People seem to want to release hateful energy as a default,” they added. 

The designers then explained that they are now considering whether or not to put the hoodies up for sale, saying: “The hoodies have only been shown not sold and the school shooting hoodies were initially intended to be just for the show and not to sell but that may change now.”

The backlash surrounding the designs comes just as the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise released an intense video about gun violence in schools. 

See what others are saying: (The Cut) (The Washington Post) (Today)

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Nearly 50,000 Workers Strike Against General Motors

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  • GM Employees are striking for the second day after contract negotiations between their union and company did not meet their demands. 
  • GM did give an offer after negotiations, but it was not satisfactory to the nearly 50,000 employees, who are asking for higher wages, better healthcare, a share of profits, job security, and more.
  • Many of the employees say they will commit to the strike until the company meets their requirements, however, others are concerned about living off the estimated $250 of weekly assistance pay while the strike carries on.

Employees Strike

As General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union resume negotiations, GM employees are entering their second day of nationwide strikes.

Fair wages, affordable healthcare, fairer profit shares, job security, and a path to permanent employment for temps are all on the list of demands for the close to 50,000 GM workers striking throughout nine states today. This is the first strike in the U.S. auto industry since 2007, which was also led by GM workers. Striking began Sunday at midnight after a weekend of failed negotiations between GM and UAW. 

Their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Saturday night, but the UAW declined to extend it. After negotiations ended, the UAW’s Vice President, Terry Dittes released a statement standing by his commitment to worker’s needs. 

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” he said. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”

GM extended an offer to its employees that included over $7 billion in investments and 5,400 jobs. The deal also included wage or lump sum increases for every year of the four-year contract, an improved profit-sharing formula, and additional forms of health benefits.

Employees rejected that offer and went forward with their strike after this proposal, forcing GM to resume negotiations with UAW on Monday. 

“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement announcing the continued talks. 

Potential Consequences of Strike

The strike does not come without potential consequences, not just for GM, but for the employees as well. Reports say GM could lose up to $90 million a day during the strike, but employees also stand to lose a lot. 

According to a Fox Business report, GM employees will have to wait 15 days to receive their assistance pay, which comes out to $250 a week. This barely covers rent in Detroit, a city that hosts many employees of the company. 

One Detroit-area employee, Patricia Brown, told the outlet that one of her main fears is “that we might be here for a while… and we can’t make it on $250 a week. You know, GM might not want to budge. So I’m just here trying to prove a point, that’s it.”

Still, some see the risk to be worth the reward. Ray Carter-Wilson, a single father also striking in the Detroit area told CNN he is comfortable striking for a long time as long as it all works out. 

“I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them,” he said. “This being a lengthy strike, I’m fine with it as long as everything gets ironed out and is fair for everyone.” 

Politicians Support Strike

Strikers also have support from prominent public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) said she was “inspired” by the workers. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also pointed out the wage inequality at the company while adding that he stood with the strike. 

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNN) (The Hill)

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