Explicit Deepfake Images of Taylor Swift Trigger the Call for New Laws Around Fake Photos

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By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 06, 2024

Taylor Swift has broken the internet for the millionth consecutive time — but this time, it’s prompting politicians to take notice.

Taylor Swift (left) shown next to Capitol Hill (right).

Source: Wikipedia/Canva

The superstar has recently fallen victim to AI technology in late January, as internet users used AI technology to create deepfakes of her in the nude. These photos then went viral nearly instantly, flooding fan and social media sites. Here’s what we know.

Has Taylor Swift Ever Had Compromising Photos Leaked?

Taylor Swift is one of the most popular (yet private) stars of her time and has already gone viral due to the extreme lengths she takes to maintain her privacy.

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Taylor Swift performing during her ‘Eras’ Tour

Source: KESQ

There have been no compromising photos of the star that have been leaked at the time of this publication — and any photos that appeared to be compromising were either deepfakes or doctored images.

Where Were the Deepfakes Posted?

While the deepfakes circulated across social media platforms. BBC notes that the deepfakes were most commonly posted on sites such as X and Telegram.

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The X logo (left) next to the Telegram logo (right)

Source: Wikipedia | Wikimedia Commons

The response to the deepfakes was so overwhelming that X had to limit the search results and search abilities for certain keywords (such as Taylor Swift).

What Did X Have to Say About the Leaks?

While the platform wasn’t directly responsible for the deepfakes, there are many Swift-related accounts on-platform that were impacted by the spread of the images.

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Taylor Swift performs on stage

Source: Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Seattle, WA/Getty Images

BBC notes that X stated that they were “closely monitoring the situation to ensure that any further violations [were] immediately addressed and that the content [would be] removed.”

What Did the Deepfakes Look Like?

While sites are avoiding reposting the deepfakes to avoid abuse claims and takedowns, many fans and internet users saw the images before they were scrubbed.

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A thumbnail is shown that asks if Taylor Swift is overexposed, playing on the nude deepfake bit

Source: SleeveSaturday/YouTube

Joe Morelle, a U.S. Representative, went on record with BBC saying that the spread rates of the images were “appalling.” Fans echoed their disapproval in an attempt to protect the singer.

How Intense Was the Damage?

While cybersecurity experts by platform attempted to react quickly, BBC reports that some of the images were seen at least 47 million times prior to their removal.

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Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at State Farm Stadium on March 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The city of Glendale, Arizona was ceremonially renamed to Swift City for March 17-18 in honor of The Eras Tour.

Source: John Medina/Getty Images

At the time of this publication, many of the images have been removed. However, some of them have been screenshotted, reposted, and re-circulated — and may continue to be for quite some time.

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Wait — So Were the Images at Least Partly Real?

The Taylor Swift leaked images weren’t real at all. They were deepfakes. Deepfakes are images that are created using AI.

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Several frames are placed next to each other, illustrating how deepfakes work

Source: r/MegaPortraits/Reddit

In a deepfake, elements of an original clip or image (like someone’s face) are manipulated and used to create the rest of the “missing” pieces. In this case, the “missing piece” was a nude body.

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Is AI Ushering in a New Era of Deepfake Danger?

Deepfake risks have skyrocketed with the prevalence and use of AI. BBC cites a study that was conducted in 2023, for example, that found that there has been a 550% rise in the creation of “doctored images” over the past few years.

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A deepfake of Kim K is shown next to the real image on the right

Source: Foeko/YouTube

While doctored images still happened prior to the popularization of AI, they were far less sophisticated.

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What Did Authorities Have to Say?

The era of AI is still relatively new. As a result, BBC confirms that there are no current federal laws in the United States that prohibit sharing or creating deepfakes.

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A still shot of Capitol Hill is shown

Source: Wikipedia

Due to the current vacuum in legislation, many states have begun to call for action on the matter; encouraging law creation at both the state and federal levels.

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A Legislative Look Around the World

The United States is sophisticated legally but doesn’t currently have advanced cybersecurity laws compared to other international sites.

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A close-up of a bronze statue of Lady Justice, featuring her blindfolded face and her arm raised, holding evenly balanced scales. She is draped in a classical toga, symbolizing the fair and equal administration of the law

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

Per BBC, the United Kingdom made deepfake pornography an illegal offense — formalizing the statute in the Online Safety Act of 2023.

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Is There a Bias Toward Women in Deepfake Attacks?

Women may be a prime target for deepfake attacks, per BBC. The site cited data that indicates that women make up 99% of deepfake victims, whether they are pornographic in nature or not.

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Women march for their rights regarding deepfakes and abortions

Source: r/technology/Reddit

This has become a rising concern in the e-sphere, as minors, children, and unwitting participants could be affected without their knowledge.

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What’s Next for the Taylor Swift Leaked Photos Issue?

While politicians work to find a solution on the Hill, the deepfake case may find its way into the local court system.

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Taylor poses for her Antihero Challenge

Source: YouTube Blog/YouTube

The Daily Mail has noted that her team may choose to take action against the origin site that the deepfake images came from, attempting to prompt further action in Congress.

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