Taiwan Brief: Porn’s potential to disrupt politics transcript

3 have been arrested for “deepfake” porn targeting local celebrities…and local politicians like Huang Jie and Kao Chia-yu. Though these weren’t political, in today’s highly polarized political climate, this could be weaponized in frightening and unpredictable ways.

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Normally porn and politics are totally different realms, but this last week they collided following some arrests of suspects making deepfake porn of celebrities and politicians.
Deepfake porn is when the face of one person is superimposed digitally over the face of a porn actor, and apparently the technology on this is getting quite realistic.
Independent Kaohsiung City Councillor Huang Jie, one of the people depicted, said she felt disgusted and afraid when she saw the videos herself.
This trend is obviously deeply disturbing, and has real potential to cause harm.
In this case, as horrifying for the victims as it is, it appears that the intent wasn’t to create any sort of realistic political scandal.
But it’s very, very easy to see how that could be done.
If these Youtubers were able to convincingly do this with the wide ranging facial expressions during intercourse, clearly this tech could be easily used to use actors to fake politicians saying all sorts of outrageous things–and indeed an intentionally openly faked one of US President Obama to illustrate the dangers of this was made.
And in the often partisan silos that people inhabit, like LINE groups, these could be widely believed–even if it is widely debunked in the press.
A simple example, faking a video of President Tsai saying she faked her thesis.
Like the faked Obama video, we’ve been aware of this possibility for awhile.
What this case opens the possibility for is something I haven’t seen discussed–manufactured sex scandals.
Although curiously it appears they didn’t include Freddy Lim–a very good looking, but married independent lawmaker–in their videos for entertainment, if they had say, faked him in a porn with Huang Jie for political purposes, that could have been even more damaging than what they had already done.
With a recall vote coming up against Lim, that could boost turnout among those who want him out.
Though, it could also backfire–his supporters and others outraged at what had been done could also boost turnout on his side.
It’s hard to say, though–but we may be seeing this play out in future, and the consequences could be unpredictable.
Fake news and rumours online are already pretty mean and damaging to democracy, but this could take it up to an entirely new level.
Though this time it wasn’t done with political intent, it doesn’t appear that any KMT politicians were targeted, which I suppose is an awful, but backhanded compliment to pan-greens having younger, more attractive politicians.
The good news is that the suspects were caught and arrested, though they are out on bail now.
The laws aren’t exactly set up to handle this sort of thing specifically, though it appears they will use distributing obscene videos laws, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, which can be converted or added to a NT$90,000 fine, and also targeting a public insult conviction, which could result in a fine of up to NT$9,000.
Police claim the three Youtubers made more than NT$11 million over the past year by creating and distributing the videos, so the punishment seems shockingly light by comparison.
That may be changing, however, as another victim of theirs–DPP Legislator Kao Chia-yu–has already set out to create laws specifically for this type of situation.

Image courtesy of 黃捷 高雄市議員 Facebook page

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