The Damage Caused by Deepfake Porn

Deepfake porn has recently exploded in popularity, especially since AI technology has made face-swapping in videos so easy. Some sites prey on the non-consensual use of any woman’s photo over another woman’s body in pornographic videos. This is damaging to the women whose images are used.

Key takeaways:

These women may have no say over who is using their likenesses in these videos, and it often appears as if they starred in pornographic videos.

What is a deepfake video?

Deepfake videos are made using machine learning AI technology to superimpose a person’s face over another person’s body. The technology used to create these videos can depict the person as doing and saying things they did not, and it’s incredibly difficult to tell that it is not real. In fact, many people believe these videos to be real, and that is where the real damage begins. Deepfakes can negatively impact politics, promote more mistrust in the media, and cause a person to lose their job, or affect their marriage, social status, dignity, and reputation.

Data estimates that 96% of deepfake videos are pornographic in nature, 90–95% are non-consensual, and 90% feature women. Unfortunately, the legal system has not caught up with the technology making these videos possible. Furthermore, there are no laws protecting victims from this harmful practice in most places around the globe. There are only four states in the US that have laws to punish the producers of revenge porn and ban non-consensual deepfake pornography — New York, California, Georgia, and Virginia.

The accessibility of deepfake porn

Due to the widely distributed availability of deepfake video technology, and the low cost of the apps that use it, anyone with a smartphone and eight dollars per month can make a deepfake video. This practice is incredibly harmful, not only to the victims, but also to society. Some researchers say that deepfake videos are becoming a new epidemic. To get an idea of how fast this practice has grown in a short time, we’ll use one of the top deepfake porn sites as an example. In 2018, the site contained less than 2,000 deepfake pornographic videos. This number grew to 13,000 by 2022, and the site is now attracting 16 million viewers per month.

The message deepfake porn sends

The message that deepfake porn sends across society is rooted in the old, chilling nature of the pornography industry. For instance, men most often use pornography to express their disrespect or contempt toward females and use sexual content to violate and degrade them. Ted Bundy, for example, was a charming serial killer who targeted women. He admits that his psychopathy was rooted in his exposure to pornography. What’s more chilling is that anyone can use deepfake porn technology to humiliate and degrade a woman sexually without her consent. The problem is becoming so widespread that a woman is not even safe going to the gym anymore without being at risk of having her photo taken without her consent and placed in a deepfake video.

The damage deepfake porn causes

In addition to the harmful impact deepfake videos have on society, deepfake porn can be incredibly damaging to a woman who has become a victim of this harmful practice. It has the potential to inflict extreme psychological distress on a woman, to the point that it could also lead to physiological symptoms, such as heart palpitations and panic attacks. This is a damaging sexual violation that could result in a woman or victim feeling as if they’ve been sexually violated. This kind of trauma could lead to symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety and panic. When faced with trauma, anxiety and/or panic attacks can arise as a result. Additionally, these responses can be induced by stimuli that remind a person of the trauma. This is because the hippocampus freezes up when faced with trauma and doesn't sufficiently store the memory. This can also lead to symptoms of PTSD.
  • Depression. Another symptom comorbid with experiencing trauma that can arise in the prefrontal cortex, which allows a person to see life's bigger picture, and is also impacted during trauma.
  • PTSD. As mentioned, PTSD can arise as a result of being a victim of deepfake porn, as it can cause trauma, which impacts the brain in significant ways, including changes to the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala.

In extreme trauma cases, a person could also dissociate and lose touch with reality, causing a fugue state — temporary amnesia — as a result of being a victim of deepfake porn. How intensely a deepfake video affects a person depends on numerous factors, including the nature of the content, the immediate impact on the individual's life, their age, spiritual belief system, and past sexual experiences — or lack-there-of.

A person may also experience trauma from exposure to the porn itself, as pornography is designed in such a way that it high-jacks the brain, much like cocaine and other addictive drugs do by releasing dopamine into the brain and triggering the brain's pleasure center. Being exposed to explicit content when not expecting it can cause trauma to the brain and also simultaneously trigger the release of dopamine, which can cause some turmoil and confusion for the victim. They may find themselves consumed with guilt and shame, and feeling dirty, even though they are not to blame for the content.

There have been cases where females under the age of 18 have reverse image searched a selfie online only to find that it had been placed over the images of naked women and used in deepfake porn. Unfortunately, once a person discovers that they’ve been a victim of deepfake porn, it doesn’t just go away. The content will usually live on a site for several months, as it takes a considerable amount of mass reporting and activism for these sites to be taken down.

This is a serious problem that should have more devastating repercussions for the people creating the content and distributing it. The most high-profile case involved a reporter named Rana Ayyub. She became the victim of deepfake porn after reporting about an eight-year-old who was raped in India. The harassment that this woman received as a result of the deepfake became so bad that the United Nations had to step in and intervene on her behalf.

One can only hope that this growing issue will be resolved by stricter cyber laws to protect the innocent. It’s a devastating practice that so many people are engaging in for their own guilty pleasures that is causing an extreme amount of damage to women and society.

What to do as a victim of deepfake porn

If you find yourself the victim of deep fake porn, it’s important to seek help immediately. Both mental health and legal action should be taken to protect yourself. For those living in the US, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has a crisis hotline for expert support and advice. It’s also essential to seek the support of a licensed, trusted therapist to help you process your feelings and emotions surrounding the incident. If everyone unites to spread awareness surrounding the harm this practice brings and works together to fight against it, hopefully, the law will soon catch up and create a safer environment for women.

Dealing with a deepfake porn addiction

If you find yourself addicted to deep fake porn, it's important to realize the damage it causes and seek help. Pornography can be very harmful to the brain and change it in ways detrimental to mental health. Porn addiction can negatively affect a person just as an addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, or food. It high-jacks the brain and its pleasure center, increasing a person's need for more. Unfortunately, when a person struggles with addiction, they build up a tolerance — requiring more or craving more extreme forms of visual sexual stimulation. This can become dangerous.

The good news is that with therapy, self-care, and a commitment to get better, a person can recover from deepfake porn addiction just as a person can recover from drug addiction. It's important to not give up on yourself or lose hope, and to be kind to yourself while on your journey toward healing and recovery.



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