Apps and websites that use artificial intelligence to undress women in photos are soaring in popularity, according to researchers.
In September alone, 24 million people visited undressing websites, according to the social network analysis company Graphika.
Many of these undressing, or “nudify”, services use popular social networks for marketing, according to Graphika. For instance, since the beginning of this year, the number of links advertising undressing apps increased more than 2 400% on social media, including on X and Reddit, the researchers said. The services use AI to recreate an image so that the person is nude. Many of the services only work on women.
These apps are part of a worrying trend of non-consensual pornography being developed and distributed because of advances in AI — a type of fabricated media known as deepfake pornography. Its proliferation runs into serious legal and ethical hurdles, as the images are often taken from social media and distributed without the consent, control or knowledge of the subject.
One image posted to X advertising an undressing app used language that suggests customers could create nude images and then send them to the person whose image was digitally undressed, inciting harassment. One of the apps, meanwhile, has paid for sponsored content on Google’s YouTube, and appears first when searching with the word “nudify”.
A Google spokesman said the company doesn’t allow ads “that contain sexually explicit content. We’ve reviewed the ads in question and are removing those that violate our policies.” Neither X nor Reddit responded to requests for comment.
Non-consensual pornography of public figures has long been a scourge on the internet, but privacy experts are growing concerned that advances in AI technology have made deepfake software easier and more effective.
“We are seeing more and more of this being done by ordinary people with ordinary targets,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “You see it among high school children and people who are in university.”
Many victims never find out about the images, but even those who do may struggle to get law enforcement to investigate or to find funds to pursue legal action, Galperin said.
In November, an American child psychiatrist was sentenced to 40 years in prison for using undressing apps on photos of his patients, the first prosecution of its kind in the US under law banning deepfake generation of child sexual abuse material.
TikTok has blocked the keyword “undress”, a popular search term associated with the services, warning anyone searching for the word that it “may be associated with behaviour or content that violates our guidelines”, according to the app. A TikTok representative declined to elaborate. In response to questions, Meta Platforms also began blocking key words associated with searching for undressing apps. — Margi Murphy, (c) 2023 Bloomberg LP