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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Taylor Swift, TFGBV, and when US freedom of speech protections become viral abusive images

Taylor Swift has been subjected to a particularly disturbing form of online abuse involving the creation and viral spread of deepfake pornographic images. This incident highlights the darker aspects of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV). These AI-generated images, which depict individuals in explicit situations without their consent, represent a new and deeply troubling strain of nonconsensual pornography. This was starting to happen in schools at the end of the last school year with students doing this to other students.

The images of Swift originated from a Telegram chat dedicated to creating such content using generative AI tools, despite violating platform policies. There are no laws in the US to stop this kind of abuse, there are in Australia under Image-based abuse laws.

Her fans, have rallied in her defense, launching a counter-campaign to bury the AI-generated content and support Swift. Their actions underscore the broader implications of such abuse, emphasizing that it's not just a threat to celebrities but can happen to anyone. This form of violence is a stark reminder of the potential for digital technologies to be misused in ways that cause significant harm, especially to women and girls.

This is part of a larger pattern of gender-based violence online, where women in the public eye are often targeted with misogynistic abuse and harassment. This incident is just one example of how digital spaces can be weaponized against women, reducing them to mere objects of sexualization and ridicule. It highlights the need for stronger legislation against nonconsensual deepfakes, better enforcement of platform policies, and a broader cultural shift to challenge and condemn such acts of gender-based digital violence.

I saw the images even though they have now been blocked by platforms, no doubt they will come back again. You can see the numbers in the image below that I heavily edited.

Once it is out there it is hard to pull back. All of our courses for 2024 teach about ethics in AI use. Education is key. Law changes in the US should be a priority. When "Freedom of speech" becomes an abusive image...things need urgent change. #tfgbv #deepfake #taylorswift

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