As clear as the potential for profound abuse may be, new, unfamiliar examples keep popping up. The Philadelpha Inquirer and Harrisburg’s Patriot News report that police arrested Raffaela Spone of Chalfont, Pennsylvania for allegedly using deepfakes to cast rivals from her daughter’s cheerleading team, the Victory Vipers. Law enforcement officials said Spone sent trainers AI-modified photos and videos of the teenagers to show them drinking, smoking, or naked.
Police first received a message in July when one of the victims received messages from an anonymous number, but this resulted in others bringing up similar stories. The officers linked the messages to Spone by tracing the numbers on a telemarketer-oriented site and then pointing them to an IP address used at Spone’s home. A search on the woman’s smartphone found evidence tying her to the numbers.
Spone is charged with misdemeanor charges of cyber harassment of a child and related crimes. The police did not take any action against the daughter as there is no evidence that she was aware of her mother’s actions.
Social networks like Facebook, TikTok and Twitter have already banned deepfakes, making them less likely to spread. However, this does not prevent direct harassment campaigns and the incident underscores the ease with which the fakes are made. You don’t have to be an expert to create plausible looking images. While research is being carried out into detecting deepfakes, such detection systems only help if people suspect fakes and catch them before there is significant damage.