The "distressing" rate at which artificial intelligence has advanced in recent months has prompted fears we'll "soon lose control" over the technology, with many already believing that we already have, particularly when it comes to the use of "photo-realistic" imagery.
While calls mount for legislative changes to combat deep fakes, given its skyrocketing popularity online, especially in pornography and on OnlyFans — as demonstrated in the last week through the Taylor Swift drama on X, which even the White House branded "alarming" — so far few regulations have been implemented in Australia. Though, the Albanese government is now said to be looking into first steps.
This week, the Nine Network even blamed automated AI for an embarrassing Photoshop blunder in which a Victorian MP's breasts and torso were doctored, which was widely criticised and made international headlines.
'Limitless AI' putting 'anyone at risk'
Experts say AI's use is essentially "limitless", and pretty much "anyone" is at risk of becoming a victim of AI porn, whether they have a significant online presence or not. However the more you share of yourself in the digital world, the more content there is to work with.
Those who share quite a lot of themselves online are workers in the adult film industry. Calling for more safeguards when it comes to the use of deep fakes in porn, sex workers and OnlyFans models say that while each content creator produces a "unique experience" for their subscribers, there could come a time where the technology is even able to mimic that. Though most believe "we're not quite there yet".
Aussie sex workers speak about 'concerning' trend
Yahoo News Australia spoke to a range of Australian OnlyFans models to gauge their opinion on the matter, with all agreeing the use of deep-fake pornography is "concerning" and "distressing", though not everyone thought the technology would affect their business models.
Annie Knight, one of Australia's most-profitable porn actresses, who, after just two years on OnlyFans generates almost $200,000 per month from her $14.99 subscription fee — excluding additional income from bonus content — said it frightened her to learn "just how advanced" AI is.
"It did shock me," Knight told Yahoo of the Taylor Swift saga. "I guess I didn't really realise how advanced AI had become — and it is really awful. She didn't consent to it, and while yes, it's fake, it's still putting her face and her brand on something that she doesn't agree with. It's like harassment."
Of the deep-fake trend more generally, Knight said she does hold concerns over its rise, given "it would be very easy for someone to create fake pornographic images of me". But, she said, her subscribers come to her platform for an exclusive, personal experience.
"Most of my subscribers — and I think a lot of OnlyFans girls will say this — they're there for your personality as well," Knight explained. "You might be able to watch that and imagine that that's me and that's real, because it looks so realistic, but you won't have the opportunity to chat to me and really connect with me, which I think is a huge aspect of OnlyFans."
'Governments won't prioritise porn industry', adult entertainer says
Fellow model Bonnie Blue likened deep-fakes to content leaks and said AI has advanced so rapidly, "no one really knows how to prevent it and govern it".
"If governments were going to prioritise the effect of deep fakes and AI, I don’t think they would look to the porn industry first," she told Yahoo. "I guess porn will change as technology advances and this is just one step towards that. It’s not very nice for people to have their faces stolen without their consent and placed into porn, but it’s not much different to when my content gets leaked online.
"I decided to put myself in the position of shooting porn and therefore I feel I have to take these things as part of life. But I do agree, celebrities and the general public that do fall victim to deep fakes — it must be very distressing and it is wrong for this to be happening."
Blue hypothesised that AI could even "be good for my business model but equally disastrous".
"I think with AI in general, no one really knows if it will be a good thing for any industry, but it is inevitable that it will have a huge effect," she said, while calling for "more legislation to protect people from what is technically fraud and impersonation".
"My brand is making relatable and realistic porn and AI will not be able to replace that aspect of it," she said.
OnlyFans couple Rebecca McLeod and Nathan Soligoa echoed much of Knight and Blue's sentiment, and repeated calls for regulation and "tools to make images and videos more authentic" through the use of watermarks, "which would help websites identify if it’s a fake.
"As well as implementing stronger laws and punishments to distributors," they said.
"[While] we don’t know anyone affected [locally], we would say our main worry would be the loss of customers and income for all creators, due to fans not knowing whether content is still authentic."
Expert warns it 'may be too late' to control AI
As governments all around the globe ponder over how best to regulate AI, Swinburne University Immersive Media Lecturer James Berrett said "while it may be too late to control it", there might be ways to better manage the way it’s used.
"Within the space of 12 to 18 months, AI image generation tools [have advanced to the point that they] can now produce photo realistic results that are becoming very difficult to spot as being fake," he told Yahoo.
"They are readily accessible and easy to use. The potential of AI technology is enormous and how it will ultimately impact society is unknown, which makes it both exciting and concerning.
Berrett hopes "there is a quick solution to identifying" fakes that are then "immediately taken down or labelled as misleading".
"Fortunately, we are starting to see this happen on some platforms but there is still a long way to go," he said. "AI is on a rapid trajectory which makes it difficult to keep up. The best thing we can do is to be more critical online and to always check to see if it is from a trusted source."
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