Police in a Spanish town are investigating after dozens of schoolgirls reported that AI-generated images showing them posing naked were being shared around schools.
Mothers of the children, who have joined together in a support group, said that at least 30 girls from four different schools in Almendralejo have been targeted with the fake images, with some also reporting attempts to blackmail them by asking for money to stop them being circulated.
The ages of the victims known so far range from 11 to 17. The police have reportedly identified seven suspects involved in the creation and distribution of the images, known as deepfakes, which are generated with apps that use machine learning to combine a photograph of the victim’s face with pornographic imagery from the internet.
Complaints about the pictures and videos began to emerge last week when children returned to schools in the town in Spain’s western Extremadura region.
Miriam Al Adib, the mother of one of the victims, said that her 14-year-old daughter showed her a photo of herself apparently naked.
“If I didn’t know my daughter’s body, this photo looks real,” said Ms Al Adib, who took to her Instagram account to warn others of the situation and urge them to report it.
“You’re not aware of the damage you are causing,” she said in a message to the culprits. “Using images to create this disgusting material and distributing them is a very serious crime.”
‘Digital violence against women on rise’
Distributing child pornography and offences against privacy carry jail terms of between one and five years in Spain, but if the perpetrators are under 18, they will not go to prison.
Fátima Gómez, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, told the newspaper El País that she suffered an anxiety attack when she heard from another mother that her daughter had been targeted.
When she asked her daughter if she knew anything about a naked photograph, the girl showed her a chat she had had with a boy on Instagram in which he asked for money. When she refused, the boy sent her a deepfake naked image of herself.
María Guardiola, the president of Extremadura, said that “digital violence against women is a scourge that is on the rise”, and promised a training and awareness campaign to combat it.
The number of deepfakes on the internet doubles every six months, according to Sensity AI, a research company that tracks fake hyperrealistic videos online. In 95 per cent of cases, the intention is to create pornography without consent, usually targeting women.
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