- A deepfake ecosystem on Telegram is creating hundreds of fake nudes.
- These fake nudes feature women without their knowledge.
- DeepNude is the software that is being used on Telegram.
Telegram has often been cited as a haven for illegal activities, including circulation of porn. In the latest instance of porn-related issues on the messaging app, a group of researchers has unearthed a deepfake ecosystem rampant on Telegram. Many deepfake bots available on Telegram are generating fake nudes of women using their social media photos on user request. These photos are then circulated on Telegram channels among users, sometimes for money.
The discovery of this ecosystem was led by researchers at a security firm called Sensity. The firm says it is dedicated to spotting visual threats such as the spread of deepfake technology. According to the Sensity's researchers, more than 100,000 images were being exchanged in public Telegram channels as of July this year. This stat does not include the images that were generated by deepfake bots but were never shared.
The magnitude of the deepfake bots is unimaginably high because of the variety available for creating fake nudes on Telegram. The security firm has said that the users of these Telegram channels, around 70 per cent, belong to Russia and neighbouring countries. Sensity has said that while a lot of channels have been disabled, a huge fraction of deepfake ecosystem is still live. The Verge independently verified and confirmed these channels still exist. Sensity says "a limited number" of fake nudes feature people "who appeared to be underage."
While it is not clear who created these deepfake bots, they are available to use for free by users. But there is a freemium model being followed in the deepfake ecosystem. Deepfake bots will create fake nudes with watermarks and partial nudity when a user is not paying for services. Users are required to pay a nominal fee to "uncover" these nudes with complete exposure. According to the security firm, the "beginner rate" is 100 rubles (roughly Rs 95) for 100 fake nudes without watermarks. This fee is valid for seven days.
The deepfake ecosystem uses software called DeepNude to generate fake nudes. DeepNude emerged last June but it was pulled hours later over potential misuses of the software that would have been commonplace soon. Many media reports highlighted this issue, compelling the creator to pull the plug on DeepNude. But the software never died, instead, it reached backchannels. Sensity has mentioned DeepNude was reverse-engineered and so much as enhanced for open source repositories and torrents. The software is now being used on Telegram but in a more advanced form, wherein the deepfake bots also make money by trading fake nudes.
Sensity said it contacted Telegram to inquire why the messaging app allowed the generation and circulation of the questionable content. Telegram is yet to respond. The security research firm has claimed it has also contacted relevant law enforcement bodies.