Porn app used to doctor photos of S'pore women

She posted an innocuous selfie on social media more than a year ago. Last week, her photo appeared on a sex forum with a startling difference - she is naked.

When the 27-year-old woman, who wanted to be known only as Rose, was told her photo had been doctored using artificial intelligence to show her in the nude, she was aghast.

She is not alone. Over the past week, dozens of women in Singapore have had their pictures on social media stolen, doctored and uploaded to the sex forum, reported The New Paper.

Some of these pictures have been compiled and recirculated on pornographic sites, with more additions every day. The photos are believed to have been doctored using a version of the DeepNude app, which was launched several months ago. It uses artificial intelligence to make women appear naked.

Its creators, who listed their location as Estonia, shut down the application last month following an uproar on social media. They said the app was meant only for entertainment and they had not expected it to go viral.

A screengrab taken on June 28 shows the Twitter account and logo of the DeepNude app.

Several versions of the software have since surfaced online. Versions of the app have been shared via download links on the sex forum, which has a high number of visitors from Singapore.

 

Forum users could also submit photos and request that they be doctored by those who have the software. The doctored pictures would then be uploaded and circulated.

Ms Rose believes circulation of her doctored photo had led to a recent surge in followers on her social media accounts. She said: "This is so disgusting... What if someone else did this to their mothers, sisters, wives or girlfriends?" She now intends to make her social media accounts private.

Lawyers said that using the app to doctor photos to make people appear naked is a criminal offence under the law.

Lawyer Gloria James said that under the Films Act, anyone who creates such pictures can be fined up to $40,000, jailed for up to two years, or both. The culprits can also be charged with insult of modesty, for which they face a jail term of up to a year, a fine, or both. She and lawyer Fong Wei Li added that victims can use the Protection from Harassment Act to take out protection orders against online users, even if they appear to be anonymous.

Mr Fong said: "As long as the person is still identifiable via a username, the victim can still make an application. There are limitations, but it doesn't mean nothing can be done."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said that banning such apps might not be the most effective way to deal with the exploitation of new technologies.

"They can be banned the way pornographic materials are, but the more effective approach is for people to internalise socially acceptable values with respect to sexual exploitation," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2019, with the headline 'Porn app used to doctor photos of S'pore women'. Print Edition | Subscribe