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Deepfake Porn Is Evolving to Give People Total Control Over Women's Bodies

People are creating a new kind of nonconsensual pornography by combining deepfakes with 3D avatars that can be manipulated to do whatever they want.

by Samantha Cole and Emanuel Maiberg
Dec 6 2019, 5:29pm

A lineup of female celebrities stand in front of you. Their faces move, smile, and blink as you move around them. They're fully nude, hairless, waiting for you to decide what you'll do to them as you peruse a menu of sex positions.

This isn't just another deepfake porn video, or the kind of interactive, 3D-generated porn Motherboard reported on last month, but a hybrid of both which gives people even more control of women's virtual bodies. This new type of nonconsensual porn uses custom 3D models that can be articulated and animated, which are then made to look exactly like specific celebrities with deepfaked faces.

Until recently, deepfake porn consisted of taking the face of a person—usually a celebrity, almost always a woman—and swapping it on to the face of an adult performer in an existing porn video. With this method, a user can make a 3D avatar with a generic face, capture footage of it performing any kind of sexual act, then run that video through an algorithm that swaps the generic face with a real person's.

One maker on a popular deepfake online community created adult content like this by capturing a video of naked, 3D-generated human models in Virt-A-Mate (also known as VaM), software for creating adult VR games and simulations which some hobbyists use to create nonconsensal pornography, and deepfaking celebrity faces on to those bodies.

"This VR deepfake mash-up is new level fuckuppedness."

The results are surreal. In one video Motherboard found, which we see from the first person perspective of someone who's interacting with VaM via an HTC Vive virtual reality headset, the person moves around the virtual naked body and manipulates its limbs in real time. The neutral, realistic face of a celebrity maintains eye contact, following the user and blinking as they move around her. The user looks to the right and pulls up VaM's control interface, which displays a long menu of sex positions the 3D model can be put into: doing a backward bend, squatting and touching herself, several versions of kneeling. The user picks a position from the menu that puts the model on her back holding her legs over her head, and looks back to the 3D model to find her in that position.

"I feel like this was one of the creepiest deepfake videos I've seen," one user commented on the video. "It looked like you had the actresses trapped inside paralysed bodies where all they could move was their eyes."

Several comments clamored for more videos created with this new method, asked for specific celebrities, and noted what they considered to be an obvious business potential.

"I think this is pretty damn interesting and would sell like hotcakes if someone ever decided to market this idea," another user wrote.

"This VR deepfake mash-up is new level fuckuppedness. Pardon the legalese," Carrie Goldberg, owner of victims’ rights law firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC and author of Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalker, Pervs & Trolls, told Motherboard. "At heart, this is a product that gamifies the violation of sexual consent. Anybody depicted is going to feel violated."

Rather than capture his own video of 3D-generated porn for the purpose of creating a deepfake, another member of the same online community has been mining the large quantity of existing, nonconsensual 3D porn videos that are openly shared on sites like Pornhub.

When we asked the creator about the ethical implications of creating a fake pornographic video of someone without their consent, they suggested it wasn't a problem "Because deepfakes are as the name suggests fake, not real."

"Anybody who says the internet isn’t real life or virtual reality is fake is just constructing excuses for doing bad shit," Goldberg said. "There’s no question that building a bot to rape in VR delivers a different injury to the depicted person than actually going and attacking her. However, two dissimilar things can be wrong and unethical at once."

The videos show how a creator can surpass the limitations of the two technologies involved—deepfakes and 3D generated porn—by combining them. Deepfakes can convincingly put a real person's face on another body, but up until now they didn't allow the user to control the body because they had to map the face on to an existing porn video. As Motherboard reported in November, 3D-generated nonconsensual porn gives a user total control of the body, allowing them to manipulate it in ways that even defy physical reality, but the 3D-generated faces are crude and not convincing. Even at the bleeding age of 3D graphics, well-resourced, professional special effects and video game artists still struggle to emulate the human face without running into the uncanny valley problem. Combining deepfakes with 3D-generated porn solves both problems.

"Why 3D? Because faces on most 3D models aren't modeled exactly like who they are based on, thus I like to improve it," this creator told Motherboard. The creator has shared dozens of fake porn videos of celebrities in the deepfake community, collects Bitcoin donations, and told Motherboard that they've been making deepfakes since the tech first became available.

"If there were worldwide ban deepfakes I'll stop making them, but that won't happen, we have more pressing issues on our hand than this because even without fakes/fake news people get manipulated everyday," they said. "We do this just because we like those celebs, most if not all men fantasize about celebrities and having sex with them, that's why we also post it here."

Like deepfakes or any other manipulated imagery, 3D sex dolls modeled after real people fall into a gray area, legally. Users in the VaM community who hand-craft their celebrity lookalikes are careful to use nicknames or no names at all alongside their creations. These new videos, however, are using full names of the people they replicate.

"I think we need to resist the idea that this use of technology is inevitable."

Some of the creators in this online deepfake community collect donations for their work, and ask members of the site to vote on what celebrities they'd like to see deepfaked next. If the creators start making money on other people's likenesses, that could cause legal trouble.

"If we can understand that this is a violation of rights in the context of celebrities and commercial advertising, why wouldn’t we also disapprove of the appropriation of someone’s body and sexuality in virtual reality games?" Suzie Dunn, faculty of law at the University of Ottawa, told Motherboard. "I think we need to resist the idea that this use of technology is inevitable, we need a cultural shift so that people don’t feel it’s appropriate to co-opt women’s bodies without their consent for their sexual satisfaction, even in digital forms."

Not all deepfakes are malicious. These technologies have harmless potential in realms of kink, fantasy, and consensual exploration of one's sexuality. The problem is that this is how people are choosing to use this technology at the moment: to create nonconsensual pornography of real people.

"The creation of technology—algorithms, code, graphics—those are all decisions," Goldberg said. "They are deliberate decisions that reflect the values and preferences of the builders. And anybody who is developing a product without asking who will be hurt by it and how, is being reckless and deserves whatever legal wrath and judgment befalls him or her."

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