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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Deepfake Bullying Protection for Educators

Artificial intelligence is getting smarter, creating some big problems in schools. Schools have faced a troubling rise in deepfake bullying, with instances of teachers’ images being manipulated into provocative or embarrassing videos. Photoshop and image manipulator apps do a lot of damage, but readily available deepfake technology for photos and videos has taken it to the next level. This misuse can stem from photos taken from screenshots of school websites, school social media accounts, and personal social media accounts.


When a photo is deep faked to make someone look like they're doing or saying something they're not, it quickly becomes serious and can end up in a courtroom.


It’s becoming more common for students to use deepfakes to pick on other students and teachers, and they often grab pictures from school websites or everyone’s social media to do it. It's causing a lot of stress. In some cases, teachers have told us they feel unsupported by their workplace and did not know that this misuse of AI technology could be reported. In some cases, legal action for defamation could be considered. Robust strategies for educating how to protect our digital identities, especially on social media, are needed.

What is deepfake technology? When does it become defamation?  When is it considered image-based abuse? So many questions.


We need to get better at teaching everyone – especially in schools – how to keep their online images safe, and be smart about what they share on social media in a proactive rather than reactive move.

Mitigating Deepfake Risks


Avoid Direct Gaze When it comes to photographs, the way you pose can make a difference. Direct eye contact with the camera can provide a clear, frontal view of your face, which is ideal for creating deepfakes. To reduce this risk, try adopting different poses where you’re not looking straight at the camera. For instance, a candid shot where you're glancing to the side or an artistic pose where your gaze is directed downwards can disrupt the alignment of facial recognition algorithms used in deepfake software. This doesn't make it impossible to create deepfakes, but it can lower the quality and believability of a potential fake image.

Opt Out If your school or workplace regularly posts photos online, you have the right to request that your image not be included. It's worth having a chat with whoever is in charge of media or communications and expressing any concerns you have. You could suggest alternatives, like group shots where you're not directly in the front or providing a written contribution instead. Privacy is your right, and opting out is a valid choice if you're worried about your image being misused.

Use Avatars Avatars are a creative and safe way to represent yourself online. They can be customised to reflect your personality without giving away your real appearance. You can design one using various apps and platforms that offer a range of personalisation options. An avatar can serve as a consistent visual identity for your online activities, from your profile picture on social media to your by-line in an online newsletter.

Mindful Sharing It's tempting to share our lives on social media, but every photo shared increases the risk of it being used in ways we didn't intend. Think carefully before posting a photo – consider who might see it and how it could potentially be used. Apply privacy settings to control who can view your images and clean up your digital footprint regularly by deleting old photos that you no longer need to have public.

Photo Use Agreement Whenever you’re at an event or participating in something where photos will be taken, it’s smart to ask about how those photos will be used. You might want to request that your photos are only used for certain purposes, like internal newsletters instead of public marketing materials. If there's a photo release form, read it carefully before signing, and don't hesitate to ask for modifications that make you feel more comfortable about where your image might appear.


Robust Privacy Settings

Make full use of the privacy controls offered by social media platforms and other websites. These settings can restrict who has access to your posts, photos, and personal information. Regularly review and update these settings to ensure they reflect the latest privacy options and your current comfort levels with online visibility.

Content Watermarking

Incorporating digital watermarks into your photos and videos adds a layer of protection by embedding a mark or logo that identifies you as the rightful owner. This can deter potential abusers by making the content less attractive for manipulation and easier to trace if misused.

Stay Informed


The landscape of AI and deepfake technology is rapidly evolving. By staying informed about the latest trends, tools, and potential threats, you can better prepare yourself to recognise and respond to suspicious content.

Phishing Vigilance

Be cautious with emails, messages, and links from unknown sources, especially those that urge immediate action or request personal information. Phishing attempts often precede identity theft, deepfake creation and sextortion. Verify the authenticity of any requests by contacting the sender directly through a known and trusted method like phoning them.

Reporting Deepfakes and seeking legal advice


If you encounter deepfake image-based abuse content involving yourself or someone you know, report it immediately to the platform where it's hosted. Most social media sites have policies against such content and mechanisms for reporting it.


Should you become the victim of deepfake bullying that affects your reputation or well-being, consulting with legal professionals who specialise in cyber law can provide clarity on your rights and options. They can advise on actions to remove the content, seek damages, and navigate the complexities of digital law.


In Australia, defamation law is primarily governed by the uniform Defamation Acts of 2005, which are state and territory laws made largely consistent under an agreement between the states. These laws aim to balance the protection of individual reputation with freedom of expression. Here's an overview of how defamation law works in Australia, especially regarding minors and cases where a teacher might sue a child for defamation.


Key Points of Australian Defamation Law

Defamation in Australia involves the publication of material that could damage a person's reputation by making others think less of them. It must be communicated to someone other than the person defamed.

The plaintiff must prove that the statement was published, the material was about them, and it damaged their reputation.


Several defenses are available, including truth (justification), absolute privilege, public interest, and fair comment on matters of public interest.

Minors and Defamation

Australian law does not exempt minors from being sued for defamation. However, suing a child for defamation is rare and presents practical and ethical challenges. The courts would consider the child's understanding and intent and whether they comprehended the defamatory nature of their actions.

If a court awards damages against a minor, enforcing the judgment presents challenges. Minors typically do not have significant assets, and court orders for payment might not be practical. Parents' responsibility for their children's actions is limited in this context, though in some circumstances, there might be legal arguments for parental responsibility.

Liability and Teachers Suing Students

There are a few precedents of teachers suing students for defamation in Australia. Such actions raise significant concerns about the impact on the student, the educational environment, and the teacher's professional reputation. Schools and educational authorities generally prefer handling such matters internally through disciplinary procedures, mediation, or conflict resolution strategies, rather than through litigation.

Legal Reforms and Considerations

Australian defamation law has been under review, with reforms proposed and implemented to better balance freedom of speech with protection against harm to reputation. This includes considerations about digital platforms and potentially reducing the number of trivial claims.

Seeking Legal Advice

Specific advice from a legal professional is crucial in these matters, as the law's application can vary significantly based on the details of the case. Legal professionals can guide potential legal action, defences, and alternative resolution methods.


Other Jurisdictions

In every jurisdiction, the approach to defamation by minors, especially in contexts like a teacher suing a child, involves careful consideration of the child's age, intent, and understanding, as well as the broader implications for freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. Legal advice from a professional familiar with local laws is essential for navigating these complex issues.


We have a few spaces left throught the year via zoom for comprehensive training on cyber safety and AI Tech us in schools. Email for more info.

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