Telegram Deepfakes Scandal: A Bot Network is Targeting Women Users of the App. No One is Safe

Social Commentary

Telegram Deepfakes Scandal: A Bot Network is Targeting Women Users of the App. No One is Safe

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

There are times when the speedy progress of technology can become frightening. When it comes to the arrival of deepfakes, this is indeed the case. Deepfakes refers to AI-generated images that use software to create false photos or videos featuring real people. Deepfakes have contributed to a rise in revenge porn, except in these instances the victim has never actually posed for the explicit photos; instead, the AI has generated the image based off pre-existing photos of the victim. On the messaging app Telegram, a network of bots has been engaged in creating nudes of unsuspecting female social media users, often at the request of other users on Telegram.

Sensity, a cyber-security firm also that tracks deepfake image manipulation, found a large network of deepfake channels on Telegram. These bots, which Sensity said mostly operate out of Russia and other neighbouring countries, use the banned DeepNudes software and its derivatives to create nudes from images submitted by users. Reportedly, the nudes are watermarked and partially covered for users using the bot for free, while a subscription fee will allow users to access complete nudes without watermarks. Some of the victims of these bots were reported to be underage as well.

Though the deepfakes ecosystem exists worldwide, the Bombay High Court has taken notice of the trade in illegal and fake photos on Telegram. The court requested the central government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting look into the reports of Telegram’s deepfakes bots creating nudes of unwilling and unsuspecting women.

With every new advancement in technology comes the potential for its misuse. The peddlers of illicit pornography on Telegram have shown how the deepfakes technology is not only being misused, but abused. In the wrong hands, the ability to create a convincing image of a person in any situation becomes highly dangerous, and the Bombay HC’s inquiry into actions taken to prevent such misdeeds is timely indeed.