Politicians condemn deepfake pornography, urge legal revisions

10/25/2021 07:44 PM
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Kao Chia-yu (left) and Huang Jie. CNA photo Oct. 25, 2021
Kao Chia-yu (left) and Huang Jie. CNA photo Oct. 25, 2021

Taipei, Oct. 25 (CNA) Legislator Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) and Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) on Monday condemned deepfake pornography and urged the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to tighten existing laws that deal with the issue.

Kao and Huang were both among those whose images were used in a recent deepfake pornography case, in which Youtuber Xiaoyu (小玉) was arrested for allegedly selling deepfake porn videos featuring over 100 famous politicians, celebrities and content creators.

At a press conference, they likened deepfake porn videos to virtual sexual violence, and demanded that the government expedite the creation of new laws and revision of established regulations to prevent more victims.

Deepfake pornography is made by superimposing the stock media faces of famous people onto existing pornographic videos using deep learning technology, a type of AI.

The technology is notorious for its ability to exploit people without their consent, especially as it becomes more advanced, making it harder to tell that the image is indeed a fake.

Arguing that Taiwan's laws on the issue are too lax, Kao cited South Korea's comprehensive legal framework against digital sex crimes as a more effective system.

South Korea mandates a 24-hour inspection system on social media platforms such as Telegram and Discord, and it empowers the government to adopt a "delete first and scrutinize later" approach to prevent unlawful conduct such as deepfake pornography, she said.

Though Taiwan has an Institute of Watch Internet Network (iWIN) to help remove existing deepfakes, Kao said, she was still able to find pornography exploiting her likeness.

Beyond the lack of a rigorous social media monitoring system, crimes such as deepfake pornography do not carry stiff penalties in Taiwan unless they involve underaged victims, Kao said.

In the recent Youtuber deepfake pornography case, for example, the criminal charges Xiaoyu and others involved could face if indicted would be for publicly insulting others and distributing obscene videos.

A public insult conviction could only result in a fine of up to NT$9,000, while a conviction for distributing obscene videos carries a maximum sentence of two years that can be converted or added to a NT$90,000 fine.

Those penalties have no bite, Kao said, and they might not even apply to technology initiated crimes.

To rectify the shortcomings, Kao said she is drafting amendments to Taiwan's Criminal Code that more clearly define intimate content and penalties for violations.

Under her proposal, distribution of intimate content without a person's consent would carry a maximum sentence of seven years, and an even heavier jail term if there is intent to exploit the content for profit.

Huang echoed Kao's sentiments, saying she felt a roller-coaster of emotions ranging from rage to disgust when watching the porn videos containing her image, and called the distribution of the videos a tech-crime.

As with Kao, she said she was still able to locate her deepfakes in multiple forums, and implored the government to improve the mechanisms for removing them.

At the same time, she and other victims have set up a group on an unspecified social media platform to hold meetings to provide support and counseling services for victims and discussions one seeking damages.

In the Youtuber case, Xiaoyu, whose real name is Chu Yu-chen (朱玉宸), was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) on Oct. 17 along with his suspected accomplices Shaiw Shaiw (笑笑), a fellow Youtuber whose last name is Yeh (耶), and a man surnamed Chuang (莊).

The trio are believed to have made over NT$11 million over the past year by creating and distributing their deepfake pornographic videos.

On Oct. 18, Chu and Chuang were released on NT$300,000 (US$10,764.65) and NT$50,000 bail respectively, while Yeh was released without bail.

MOJ official Chi Chih-kuang (紀志光) said at the press conference that the case has reflected the rapid development of information technology and exposed how the expense of engaging in such crimes has fallen, further encouraging sexual violence and the violation of privacy rights.

Chi said the MOJ is currently looking at regulations, examples and experiences from other countries relating to deepfake exploitation, and will hold discussions with professionals in the field to propose amendments as soon as possible.

(By Kuo Chien-shen and James Lo)

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