By Oiwan Lam

Taiwan’s recent arrest of popular YouTuber Xiao Yu, Zhu Yuchen, for allegedly selling deepfake pornographic videos of public figures has drawn public attention to artificial intelligence (AI) crimes and the government’s lack of laws to address sexual violence in cyberspace.

Xiao Yu was arrested, along with two of his associates, on October 17 for selling AI-generated deep fake pornographic videos of public figures via a Telegram group since July 2020. The three were released on bail on October 18.

At least 100 individuals, including politicians, YouTubers, and celebrities, have fallen victim to the new technology crime. Their faces were implanted onto pornographic videos and sold for profit. Reportedly, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is one of the victims, though the fake video clip featuring her was not explicit and was quickly removed from LINE, the most popular messaging app in Taiwan.

According to an investigative report conducted by Taiwan media outlet Mirror Media in May, the production team produced a number of 30-second fake porn videos on porn sites and invited viewers to pay a membership fee for full access, which would get them added to the Telegram group. They recruited about 8,000 members on four different Telegram groups before they caught public attention.

Members could vote to crowd-fund new productions and place special orders for tailor-made porn videos either for sexual fantasies or for reasons like humiliating a former partner. Authorities estimate that they had gained a NT$10 million (an approximately US$360,000) profit from the pornographic videos.

Several victims have spoken out since Xiao Yu’s arrest. Huang Jie, a councilor from Kaohsiung city, is the most outspoken victim. She expresses hope that the incident could educate people on the harm caused by AI crime:

“It is not the real you in the act.”
“Your face is used because it is pretty.”
“So you look down on Adult videos?”
“Xiao Yu picked a wrong face.”
Even it is not the real person, does it mean that there is no sexual violence in it?

Back in May, when I was told that my face was being used, I thought it was just another funny spoof video. But when I watched the video, I could not laugh and my stomach felt like throwing up. Then I felt creepy. I was struck with fear. Regardless of Xiao Yu’s intention, whether he did it for fun or profit, the harm and humiliation felt by the victims were real.

A number of victims, actresses from reality shows and YouTubers, contacted me in private… we would stand up together to press charges against Xiao Yu. And we warned those who were hidden behind the computers watching the videos. You are part of the crime. Your dirty jokes and consumption have harmed others, over and over.

Here, we urge the police to carry on with the investigation, and urge the public to pay attention to the emerging AI crimes. #don’t-download-and-spread-these-videos, boycott people with such debased taste. #don’t-create-another-Xiao-Yu and spread such perverted culture.

Most importantly we urge the Legislature to pay attention to #sexual-violence-in-cyberspace, amend the law to punish the evil wolves…

Huang Jie’s view was shared by Manaki, an actress who was frustrated some netizens took the incident lightly or even treated it as a joke:

Having our faces planted in others like that is a harm. Some may believe it is real. I was mentally tormented by the incident and the harm done to my reputation is irreversible. Please don’t take this as a joke. I wish more laws could be introduced to address the problem of sexual violence in cyberspace.

Kao Chia-yu, a lawmaker and a member of the Democratic Progressive Party who was a victim of the AI crime, pointed out on Facebook that currently in Taiwan, the only legal avenue to punish deepfake pornography crimes is through defamation charges, a minor crime with a relatively light punishment. She also advocated for the introduction of new laws to stop deep fake AI crimes.

In a Facebook post on October 18, Taiwanese President Tsai Ingwen vowed that the government would tighten laws to crack down on disinformation and AI-generated fake videos.

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Global Voices, a border-less, largely volunteer community of more than 1400 writers, analysts, online media experts, and translators.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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