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Deepfake bots on Telegram make the work of creating fake nudes dangerously easy

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Researchers have discovered a “deepfake ecosystem” on the messaging app Telegram centered around bots that generate fake nudes on request. Users interacting with these bots say they’re mainly creating nudes of women they know using images taken from social media, which they then share and trade with one another in various Telegram channels.

The investigation comes from security firm Sensity, which focuses on what it calls “visual threat intelligence,” particularly the spread of deepfakes. Sensity’s researchers found more than 100,000 images have been generated and shared in public Telegram channels up to July 2020 (meaning the total number of generated images, including those never shared and those made since July, is much higher). Most of the users in these channels, roughly 70 percent, come from Russia and neighboring countries, says Sensity. The Verge was able to confirm that many of the channels investigated by the company are still active.

The bots are free to use, but they generate fake nudes with watermarks or only partial nudity. Users can then pay a fee equal to just a few cents to “uncover” the pictures completely. One “beginner rate” charges users 100 rubles (around $1.28) to generate 100 fake nudes without watermarks over a seven day period. Sensity says “a limited number” of the bot-generated images feature targets “who appeared to be underage.”

Both The Verge and Sensity have contacted Telegram to ask why they permit this content on their app but have yet to receive replies. Sensity says it’s also contacted the relevant law enforcement authorities.

In a poll in one of the main channels for sharing deepfake nudes (originally posted in both Russian and English), most users said they wanted to generate images of women they knew in “real life.”
Image: Sensity

The software being used to generate these images is known as DeepNude. It first appeared on the web last June, but its creator took down its website hours after it received mainstream press coverage, saying “the probability that people will misuse it is too high.” However, the software has continued to spread over backchannels, and Sensity says DeepNude “has since been reverse engineered and can be found in enhanced forms on open source repositories and torrenting websites.” It’s now being used to power Telegram bots, which handle payments automatically to generate revenue for their creators.

DeepNude uses an AI technique known as generative adversarial networks, or GANs, to generate fake nudes, with the resulting images varying in quality. Most are obviously fake, with smeared or pixellated flesh, but some can easily be mistaken for real pictures.

Since before the arrival of Photoshop, people have created nonconsensual fake nudes of women. There are many forums and websites currently dedicated to this activity using non-AI tools, with users sharing nudes of both celebrities and people they know. But deepfakes have led to the faster generation of more realistic images. Now, automating this process via Telegram bots makes generating fake nudes as easy as sending and receiving pictures.

“The key difference is accessibility of this technology,” Sensity’s CEO and co-author of the report, Giorgio Patrini, told The Verge. “It’s important to notice that other versions of the AI core of this bot, the image processing and synthesis, are freely available on code repositories online. But you need to be a programmer and have some understanding of computer vision to get them to work, other than powerful hardware. Right now, all of this is irrelevant as it is taken care of by the bot embedded into a messaging app.”

Sensity’s report says it’s “reasonable to assume” that most of the people using these bots “are primarily interested in consuming deepfake pornography” (which remains a popular category on porn sites). But these images and videos can also be used for extortion, blackmail, harassment, and more. There have been a number of documented cases of women being targeted using AI-generated nudes, and it’s possible some of those creating nudes using the bots on Telegram are doing so with these motives in mind.

Patrini told The Verge that Sensity’s researchers had not seen direct evidence of the bot’s creations being used for these purposes, but said the company believed this was happening. He added that while the political threat of deepfakes had been “miscalculated” (“from the point of view of perpetrators, it is easier and cheaper to resort to photoshopping images and obtain a similar impact for spreading disinformation, with less effort”), it’s clear the technology poses “a series threat for personal reputation and security.”

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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