- Reuploaded replicas of the app DeepNude have been popping up on social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit.
- The app, which removed clothing from pictures of women to make them look naked, had previously been removed by its creator after an article published by Vice’s technology publication Motherboard created backlash.
- Discord and GitHub have since banned replica versions of the app after it was spread on their sites.
- Over the last week, dozens of women in Singapore have had pictures from their social media accounts doctored and put on porn websites. Those pictures are believed to have been made with a version of the DeepNude App.
DeepNude App Explained
The open source software platform GitHub has banned all code from the controversial deepfake app known as DeepNude, a desktop application that removes clothing from pictures of women and generates a new photo of them appearing naked.
The app was originally released last month, but it did not receive notoriety until Vice’s tech publication Motherboard broke the story several days after it launched. The day after Motherboard’s exposé, the DeepNude creators announced they were pulling the app.
“The probability that people will misuse it is too high,” the creators said in a statement on Twitter. “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.
GritHub Bans DeepNude Replicas
Apparently, the world thought otherwise, because copies of the DeepNude app were shared and still are being shared all over the internet.
The program was an app that was meant to be downloaded for use offline, and as a result, it could be easily replicated by anyone who had it on their hard drive.
That is exactly what happened. People who replicated the software reuploaded it on various social media platforms, like GitHub, which banned the app for violating its community guidelines.
“We do not proactively monitor user-generated content, but we do actively investigate abuse reports,” a GitHub spokesperson told Motherboard. “In this case, we disabled the project because we found it to be in violation of our acceptable use policy. We do not condone using GitHub for posting sexually obscene content and prohibit such conduct in our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.”
According to The Verge, the DeepNude team itself actually uploaded the core algorithm of the app to GitHub.
“The reverse engineering of the app was already on GitHub. It no longer makes sense to hide the source code,” The Verge said the team wrote on a now-deleted page. “DeepNude uses an interesting method to solve a typical AI problem, so it could be useful for researchers and developers working in other fields such as fashion, cinema, and visual effects.”
However, Rogue Rocket was still able to find at least one GitHub repository that claimed to have DeepNude software for Android.
“Deep nudes for android. this is the age of FREEDOM, NOT CENSORSHIP! hackers rule the future!” the page’s description said.
GitHub was not the only platform that the replicated app was shared on.
Even with just a cursory search on Twitter, Rogue Rocket was able to locate two Twitter accounts that provided links to replicated versions of the app. One of the accounts links to a website called Deep Nude Pro, which bills itself as “the official update to the original DeepNude,” and sells the app for $39.99.
The other account links to a DeepNude Patreon where people can either download the app or send the account holder pictures they want to generate and then buy.
When Rogue Rocket searched YouTube, there appeared to be multiple videos explaining how to download new versions of the app, many of which had links to download the app in the description.
Others have also shared links on Reddit, and The Verge reported that links to downloads were being shared on Telegram channels and message boards like 4chan.
To make matters even worse, a lot of the replicated software includes versions that claim they removed the watermarks included in the original app, which were used to denote that the generated pictures were fake.
While it has been reported that a lot of the links to the reuploaded software are malware, download links to the new versions are still incredibly easy to find.
GitHub is also not the only platform to ban the app. According to Motherboard, last week Discord banned a server that was selling what was described as an updated version of the app, where customers could pay $20 in Bitcoin or Amazon gift cards to get “lifetime access.”
The server and its users were removed for violating Discord’s community guidelines.
“The sharing of non-consensual pornography is explicitly prohibited in our terms of service and community guidelines,” a spokesperson for Discord told Motherboard in a statement.
“We will investigate and take immediate action against any reported terms of service violation by a server or user. Non-consensual pornography warrants an instant shut down on the servers and ban of the users whenever we identify it, which is the action we took in this case.”
DeepNude App Used in Singapore
The rapid diffusion of the app on numerous social media platforms has now become an international problem.
On Wednesday, The Straits Times reported that over the past week “dozens of women in Singapore” have had pictures of them taken from their social media accounts and doctored to look like they are naked, then uploaded to pornographic sites.
Those photos are believed to have been doctored using a version of the DeepNude app, which have been shared via download links on a popular sex forum in Singapore.
Lawyers who spoke to The Straits Times told them that doctoring photos to make people look naked is considered a criminal offense in Singapore.
Even though the artificial intelligence aspect is new, one lawyer said that the broad definitions under the law could allow people to be prosecuted for doing so.
Another lawyer backed that up, saying that under Singapore’s Films Act, people who make DeepNude pictures can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $40,000. They can also be charged with insult of modesty and face a separate fine and jail term of up to a year.
Legal Efforts in the U.S.
The legal precedent in Singapore raises questions about laws that regulate deepfakes in the United States. While these efforts appear stalled on the federal level, several states have taken actions to address the issue.
On July 1, a new amendment to Virginia’s law against revenge porn, that includes deepfakes as nonconsensual pornography, went into effect. Under that amendment, anyone caught spreading deepfakes could face 12 months in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
The idea of amending existing revenge porn laws to include deepfakes could be promising if it is effective. According to The New York Times, as of early this year, 41 states have banned revenge porn.
At the same time, lawmakers in New York state have also proposed a bill that would ban the creation of “digital replicas” of individuals without their consent.
However, the Motion Picture Association of America has opposed the bill, arguing that it would “restrict the ability of our members to tell stories about and inspired by real people and events,” which would violate the First Amendment.
The opposition to the law in New York indicates that even as states take the lead with deepfake regulation, there are still many legal hurdles to overcome.
See what others are saying: (VICE) (The Verge) (The Strait Times)
SpaceX’s Starlink to Provide Dozens of Families in Rural Texas With Internet in 2021
- SpaceX has just agreed to use its Starlink satellite internet service to provide internet to 45 families who do not have broadband access and who live in the Pleasant Farms area of south Ector County, Texas.
- The internet will be free for families, but the Ector County Independent School District is paying SpaceX $300,000 per year, with $150,000 of that coming from a nonprofit.
- Services will later expand to 90 more families in the same area as the network evolves and as the district works to deal with the digital divide that has become more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic.
- The news follows reports that SpaceX is beginning public beta testing of Starlink at $99 a month, with a $499 upfront cost for the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router.
What is SpaceX’s Starlink?
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has agreed to a deal with a Texas school district that will bring internet service to dozens of families in need next year.
The internet will be provided though Starlink, which is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet anywhere on the planet.
According to the Ector County Independent School District, SpaceX will supply internet to 45 families who do not have broadband access and who live in the Pleasant Farms area of south Ector County.
The internet will be free for families, but the district is paying SpaceX $300,000 per year, with $150,000 of that coming from a nonprofit known as Chiefs for Change.
The district said services will later expand to 90 more families in the same area as the network evolves.
The plan is part of the district’s effort to deal with the digital divide that has become more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. As more students shift to online learning, a large number of them have been forced to work without stable internet and other essentials.
“The partners with us share our vision for equity and access for all students,” the district said in it’s announcement. “Today, we take a giant leap forward in closing the digital divide that exists within our community.”
According to the district’s own surveys, 39% of families have limited or no internet access in the area.
The announcement marks the first agreement for SpaceX to offer Starlink internet in the southern U.S. It will also make Ector County the first school district to utilize SpaceX satellites to provide internet for students.
SpaceX Expands Starlink Beta Testing
The news followed reports Monday that said SpaceX was expanding the beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service.
As of now, SpaceX has launched about 900 Starlink satellites, which is only a fraction of the total needed for global coverage but enough to start providing service in some areas.
For the last few months, the company has conducted a limited private beta test with employees. However, in emails sent to an unspecified number of people Monday, SpaceX offered its first-ever public beta testing of the service.
It’s reportedly called the “Better Than Nothing Beta,” and it’s priced at $99 a month. Customers must also pay the $499 upfront cost for the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router.
There’s also now a Starlink app listed by SpaceX on the Google Play and Apple iOS app stores.
At this time, it’s unclear where exactly service will be available, but Musk has recently suggested the public beta would be offered in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.
“Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all,” SpaceX warned in its email, according to CNBC.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our networking software, data speed, latency, and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.”
See what others are saying (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Business Insider)
Department of Justice Files Antitrust Suit Against Google Alleging Unlawful Monopoly
- The Department of Justice is filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of illegally maintaining its monopoly by using its hefty ad revenue to engage in exclusionary contracts that block competition.
- An example of this would be Google’s arrangement with Apple to be the default browser on Safari. The Department thinks this agreement makes it impossible for competition to break through.
- Google has defended itself and says that it does make room for competition, but that consumers choose Google of their own volition.
- This is one of the largest antitrust suits against a major tech company in years and could be a long legal battle. Depending on the outcome, there could be major implications for other tech companies outside of Google.
DOJ Files Suit Against Google
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is filing an antitrust suit against Google, launching one of the largest cases of its kind against a tech company in decades.
The suit will hurl multiple allegations against the tech giant, including claims that it maintains its monopoly via unlawful exclusionary and interlocking agreements and contracts that block the growth of competition. The Justice Department is claiming that the company spends billions of dollars in ad revenue to pay major phone and tech companies like Apple to make Google the default search engine on web browsers.
The lawsuit also alleges that Google has arrangements to make sure its search application is preloaded and cannot be deleted on mobile Android devices, which the department says hurts and prevents competition.
An action like this from the Justice Department has been highly anticipated for some time now. In the summer of 2019, Department officials announced a broad review of the practices of big companies, including Google. Their investigation into the company has lasted since and has included probes into several aspects of the Silicon Valley behemoth.
“An antitrust response is necessary to benefit consumers,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, deputy Attorney General said in a briefing. “If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google.”
Google’s Dominance on the Internet
The Attorneys General from eleven states will be joining the suit, and many more may decide to hop on as the legal battle continues. It could take years for this to play out and be resolved. Pending the results, it could also have major implications for other big tech companies.
Google’s dominance across the internet is prominent. According to data from Vox, when it comes to searching, the company takes up 92% of the market, with its biggest competitor, Bing, owning just a small sliver of that space. When it comes to smartphone operating systems, it takes up 85% of the market. For web browsers, it takes up 66%.
The Justice Department is not the only part of the government to recently take aim at Google. In the first week of October, a House subcommittee released a report accusing Google, as well as Facebook, Amazon and Apple, of holding and abusing monopoly power in their respective industries. That report mentioned anti-competitive contracts at Google. The House suggested that there was a “pressing need for legislative action and reform” when it comes to monopolies at major tech companies.
Google has repeatedly denied that it holds an unlawful monopoly. In a Tuesday statement, the company maintained that it allows for healthy competition and condemned the Justice Department’s choice to bring an antitrust suit forward.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed,” the statement said. “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”
When it came to specifics in the suit, Google claimed the Justice Department was relying on “dubious antitrust arguments.” The company compared the agreements it has with companies like Apple to a cereal brand paying a grocery store to stock its boxes at eye level.
When it comes to Apple specifically, Google claims that it is the default in Safari because Apple believes Google to be the best search engine. Google also said their agreement is not exclusive and that Bing and Yahoo are also featured in Safari.
“This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM,” Google argued. “Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds—faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.”
“This lawsuit claims that Americans aren’t sophisticated enough to do this. But we know that’s not true.”
While it will take several years for this case to be resolved, many are analyzing what the potential outcomes may be. The Wall Street Journal said that if Google loses, there could be court-ordered changes to its practices, potentially to create openings for new rivals. However, the lawsuit will not immediately specify specific solutions. That step will come further down the road.
If Google wins this, it could throw a wrench in the government’s growing plans to go after big tech companies. Other investigations could get complicated or foiled, and it could mean that this issue might have to move into Congress’ hands.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Wall Street Journal) (CNN)
Thousands of Amazon Workers Demand Paid Time Off To Vote
- Around 4,000 Amazon tech workers signed a petition Tuesday that calls for eight hours of paid time off to be made available for employees to use up until Election Day for voting-related activities, including voting, registering, and volunteering.
- Amazon, which is the second-largest employer in the U.S., does not currently have a companywide policy that offers its over 1.3 million workers paid time off to vote.
- By contrast, companies like Walmart, Facebook, Apple, Uber, Starbucks, and dozens of others offer some sort of paid allotted time for voting.
- Amazon says employees can request time off to vote, but the number of hours and pay it will provide depends on local laws.
- Critics note that while some states require employees to be excused and paid for a few hours if voting conflicts with work schedules, several battleground states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, do not.
Employees Back Petition
Thousands of Amazon tech workers backed a petition Tuesday urging the company to offer employees paid time off to vote on or before Election Day.
Amazon is the second-largest employer in the country, with over 1.3 million U.S. workers, including Whole Foods employees. However, it does not have a companywide policy in place that offers paid time off to participate in federal elections.
For comparison, Walmart, which is the nation’s largest employer, offers up to three paid hours for its employees to vote. Other companies like Facebook, Apple, Uber, Twitter, and Starbucks also provide allotted time for voting. Some companies, like Patagonia, are even closing their doors completely on Election Day, while stores like Best Buy are reducing hours.
Supporters of such policies point out that for many Americans, voting, especially during a pandemic, can mean hours-long lines and other unexpected delays.
Because of this, on Tuesday, more than 4,000 Amazon tech workers added their support to a petition that was created internally that morning by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.
That group formed in 2018 to put pressure on the company to commit to reducing fossil fuel emissions, but has expanded its focus to speak out against poor working conditions and other issues.
The petition calls for eight hours of paid time off to be made available for employees to use up until Election Day for voting-related activities, including registering to vote and volunteering.
However, on the other side of the issue, Amazon spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said that the company has given employees information on how to register to vote and request time off.
“In all 47 states with in-person voting, employees that lack adequate time before or after their scheduled workday to vote, can request and be provided excused time off,” she explained. “The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.”
It appears that for now, Amazon doesn’t want to make paid time off for voting a company-wide policy and instead will only comply with local laws.
That’s a big deal because, although many states require employees to be excused and paid for a few hours if voting conflicts with work schedules, several battleground states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, do not.