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Victims of porn, deepfakes & the 8th Circle

By Less 

My dad fantasizes about Haila María Mompié and Vania Borges, the Bamboleo girls (Cuban popular singers). 

His brain reproduces 57 images per second of those “mulatas”. They are his favorite celebrities. He admires them. That’s why he fantasizes about them. Those two have become his sex symbols. The latest rumors about the bisexuality of “Bamboleo ladies” accelerated the frequency of these images in his brain. Now, he super estimated them. 

I do not judge him. We all do it with our favorite celebrities. It is not a crime. Celebrities are not affected. It’s just a fetish that has a place in our fantasies.

PLAYLIST

This is an easy bait. A click-bait. A wasted resource that always works. I imagine that each title has released a storm of images in your brain. Maybe you even managed to visualize a plane, a scene.

Take it easy! All this is online. It is not a montage. It is available and is free. Like you and me, millions of people also want to keep an eye on it. But I must confess that I have invented the label of Pitt, DiCaprio, and Tarantino. It is not in the Top. It does not exist. But it’s fair: too many girls and zero boys. 

random post from Facebook says: “A good friend does not share a list of authors to read, a good friend shares a list of free porn sites”.  

My list is short, but it’s cool. I don’t have to use VPN to access its content. As a good friend, I share it: 

This list is unorthodox. It is la crème de la crème, avant-garde pornography. It is the latest stock in the industry. It has too many collaborators at its disposal. Who consumes content can also share it, playing both roles at the same time.

On these sites one issue was summarized: the construction of fake pornographic videos ( deeporn ) of celebrities that we all appreciate. Their views multiply and reproduce as if videos were chickens and eggs. What fatality! Fetishes materialize. 

The phenomenon of fakevideos, today deepfakes (deep fake videos) is a serious thing. It is currently a stir. It is causing some disaster on the web. It attracts me, but what can I say, it is not my face that stars online sexual sagas. 

The world does not know about me. I am not a celebrity. I am not relevant to networks. I would not generate controversy or, most importantly, data traffic. In other words, I would be useless. Even so, it would affect me if fake content (of any kind) appeared to involve me. It is a private matter. Invasion and appropriation of privacy. 

DEEPFAKE QUICK MEMOIR

Deepfakes as a phenomenon emerged in the entertainment industry. As a fiction film, it recreates a reality that we all feel familiar, that we yearn for (or disdain), but that could be viable in real life. Its success was immediate. It was glimpsed from the hacker doxxing scandal (investigating, collecting and disseminating confidential information about a person) produced in September 2014: that access to the cloud of hundreds of public figures and revelation of acclaimed photographs such as Jennifer Lawrence’s, with viscous fluid on every inch of her freckles. 

Some of these images/videos were real, others not so much. However, we decided to believe in it because we aspired to be true, or simply because we cling to the idea of seeing Jennifer Lawrence like that one day. 

That was not an exclusive debut of the Hunger Games girl. It also paraded the web porn carpet: Anne Hathaway, Gal Gadot, Emma Watson, Cara Delevigne, Lindsay Lohan, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Miley Cirus, well a great number of Hollywood badasses. Fame and publicity without recognition or economic benefits for its interpreters. Normal. Anyone bothers. 

Daddies were not far behind. Claimed by memes they were also victims. The most striking one was Nicholas Cage. Poor guy. He could not escape from the Internet. The real thing is Internet does not forgive. You can become its martyr or its bitch in a matter of seconds. 

An interesting fact is that 96% of Internet deepfakes are pornographic and 100% copy the appearance of famous women. What a degradation for the ladies! We are never safe. Recently, political personalities such as Donald Trump and Barack Obama have also been victimized by deepfakes. The reason why now deepfakes are in everyone’s peephole. Deepfakes’s ability to mislead the public is uncontrollable. It would affect not only the image of a ruler but of his entire political campaign. 

The majority of voters over 55 years old in a country like the United States do not recognize a fake or trick video. For that reason, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have focused on the development of new usage policies to stop deepfakes virality. 

However, big companies’ laws are contradictory. They take part only for those personalities of interest and their system is not advanced enough to distinguish what is false and what is not. As free social media companies, they face a bigger problem when prosecuting content as fake. They are not interested in taking the position of deciding if an image/video is satirical or if it intends to deceive its users or both. Doing so could subject them to charges of censorship or political bias. It would only produce expenses, loss of customers. 

When a video is controversial enough on its platforms, companies turn to the user who first uploaded it. Some of its measures are to close an account indefinitely or charge fines of $ 5,000 or more, depending on the damages caused. In contrast, some fake content creators have found new mechanisms to go unnoticed and make their channels/content visible. The dumbfakes are the most frequent escapes. 

Unlike deepfakes, which require advanced artificial intelligence, audio manipulation, and facial mapping technology, dumbfakes only vary the speed of a particular video or edition. They are easier to create and can convince an unsuspecting viewer.

A recent dumbfake of the president of the House of Representatives of the United States, Nancy Pelosi, obtained more than 2 million visits on Facebook last May. Her speech for the masses was slowed. Everyone thought Nancy was drunk. 

Another victim: Jim Acosta, a prestigious CNN journalist, had to face trolling on social media when they accelerated the interview he had with one of the interns. He was accused of aggressive. 

A social media user who calls himself @PaulLeeTicks often builds videos of President Donald Trump. In one of his latest editions, he added the “concentration camps” sign to the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. His counterpart, YouTube user @Carpe Donktum publishes videos in support of the president and these are frequently retweeted by Trump himself. @CarpeDonktum alleges that he creates parodies and discusses the notion that his videos are “altered” because his intention is satirical and manipulations are obvious. “These are memes and have been on the Internet since the beginning of the Internet,” he argues.

Both one and the other, on condition of anonymity for fear of threats and harassment, began to spread videos that were more simplistic and hilarious. But his shorts have been sophisticated, blurring the line between real and false in a more convincing way for an audience that does not suspect or is familiar with his style.

ART, APPROPRIATION & DEEPFAKES (STATUS QUO)

Social media have not only radically transformed privacy dynamics: it has led to new spaces for analysis and experimentation that are a priority for art and artists. From new media arts, the main concerns in the management of privacy are being evidenced, starting from the administrative instrumentation itself and the gray areas in the policies of the big companies that “treasure” our data. Through the works of art, the vulnerability of privacy and the preservation of anonymity, control, and management of the information on the web are being critically examined. 

Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico 

The Italian artist’s duo Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico collected random images from different Facebook users to carry out a social experiment. They planned to use them in a fake online dating portal they called Lovely Faces. They came to appropriate a million photographs and thus built the piece Face to Facebook (2011). Each image was a face that was assigned a new identity. 

The project denounced the vulnerability of social profile information. It questioned the privacy offered by the Internet monopolies. 

That did not stop there. Paolo and Alessandro denounced Facebook for violation of the rights of private property of their users’ data. Face to Facebook was awarded the international prize of the Turin Share Prize Festival under the motto Cops & Robbers, for mixing artistic elements with an extraordinary talent for activism.

While it remained active, the work received hundreds of references in the international press, eleven legal threats, five death threats and several letters from Facebook’s lawyers. 

0100101110101101.org 

The duo of brothers Franco and Eva Mattes, founders of the net.art movement and known as 0100101110101101.org, broadcast live the content of their desktop for 48 minutes, exposing their private information to the public. 

The piece was called For Internet Use Only (2016) and was the precedent of a project known as Life Sharing (2000-2003), based on the idea file sharing = life sharing. 

Life Sharing gave access to the content of the duo’s personal computer for 3 years. It is recognized as one of the artistic works that have approached more categorically the exploration of the limits between the public and private sphere in the digital realm. 

Xvala

A week after the filtering of the images and sex videos of several celebrities, the artist Xvala – specialized in trash content of celebrities – announced the exhibition No Delete (2014) at the Cory Allen Contemporary Art (CACA) gallery in Florida. The exhibition displayed a selection of those files, printed on large canvases. 

Also, Xvala shifted the issue of privacy to himself. He also focused the exhibition on his privacy: specifically his manly member. 

But it went too bad that, like his artistic career, Xvala’s challenge passed without sorrow or glory through the history of art. His work patented a distancing from any critical attempt or real ethical debate about freedom of expression and privacy. 

Bill Posters 

“Imagine this for a second: a man, with total control of the data stolen from billions of people, all his secrets, his lives, his future… I owe everything to Specter. Specter showed me that whoever controls the data controls the future. ” 

These same words in the mouth of the infamous Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, in his most controversial viral video. Devoured by his own son, Mark also became a deepfake. 

The video was uploaded on Instagram by the English artist Bill Posters with the advertising company Canny. It consisted of an act of protest towards Facebook following criticism for not eliminating the video of Nancy Pelosi. The effective proof of its ineffective policy to disappear erroneous information on its platform. 

Facebook had no choice. Instagram, a platform owned by FB, was to treat Zuckerberg’s fake as Nancy Pelosi’s video. Filter it as fake, but not remove it. 

Other characters like Donald Trump, Marina Abramovic, Kim Kardashian, Freddy Mercury, and Marcel Duchamp joined to Mark Z deepfake. All equal of exquisite. It appeared as part of the Specter installation on the Sheffield Site Gallery at the “Alternate Realities” festival, last June. 

As a project, Specter questioned the use of our data in social media, privacy, online advertising, and manipulation. Bill Posters called attention to the mismanagement and use of data, the risks not only to individual rights but also to the functioning of the democratic system. His deepfakes made use of the construction of false online advertising through celebrities. 

These artists address the complexity of the profound changes and transformations that social media are exerting in our conception of intimacy and privacy. Its objective is to point out how the boundaries between the public and the private explode, the manipulation and control of the information, the unpublished constructions of the self and the authenticity in the self-representation, beyond the idealized version of ourselves that we offer in the networks. 

Some resist censorship. Others seek to join the show. I understand in each gesture the purpose of evidencing the risks we assume when exposing one’s identity. Encourage the search for a balance between the desire for recognition and the responsibility to manage our visibility. 

CUBAN DEEPFAKE: @LIL_PUNETA

Lil Puñeta is a mammal. It is not a robot. He is not a descendant of SIRI or any other Artificial Intelligence, even if he/she wants to impersonate one. 

Lil Puñeta is a Man or a Woman. Perhaps the feminine voice that was scarce on the payroll of Magela Garcés’ curatorship. Maybe it is both. Perhaps he/she likes to transvest. That’s fun, as much or more than Lil. I suspect he founded his/her own party and has reserved admission rights. He/she is not a collective, otherwise, his/her identity would be easier to find. 

Either way, gender reading would not decipher who he/she is. Lil is a female name of Irish origin (meaning lily or lily) but, who cares? Everyone wants Lil to be a man, a male artist. The expectation if Lil were a woman is that she had a name like Lil Papaya, Lil María, Lil Cachonda… Never Lil Puñeta. It sounds too macho. And it seems like here only macho are the great artists.

I like the idea that Lil can be Cuban-American. Lil is also the short name for little. It is a very common reference that American rappers use when they are young or physically small. The “puneta” does sound Cuban. The small thing would be because of his stature, or because he/she is just beginning his/her career, or simply because he/she will be a little son of a bitch!

The point is that Lil makes beef (battle style between rappers). That was how it came to the fore. I detected that Lil is a possible rapper performing some beef. The rapper who makes public detailed information about people everyone knows but nobody doubts about. Is daring. I like it, until the day he/she reveals something about me

I like to believe that, as a rapper, Lil is dedicated to the business of the beefing. Beefing is a business in which both parties always benefit. It is around the business: It generates an audience, promotion. I do not want to see evil in the gesture of Mr (a). @lil_puneta. 

@lil_puneta is the commissioned work that the Cuban art scene was waiting for. I waited for Lil and here it is. 

There are good artists in Cuba, yes, but I don’t have any like Bill Posters or the Mattes’s, I told myself. My text about the deepfakes phenomenon would be worth it if I didn’t have a Cuban artist to represent it. I would not be satisfied or complete, as well as Magela Garcés’ exhibition The Eighth Circle. 

Because currently, Lil is the only Cuban artist who has managed to flirt with the malice of deepfake. He is aware of the phenomenon and that is why I like him. 

Even so, I think  Hacking # 1 came humpback, just like a deepfake arrives. Altered, manipulated, but credible. Judging Lil’s piece by being one of a kind in our context, at least till the moment, is not enough. The fakes are a trending topic. It has always existed, as Magela warns. In any case, it has been upgraded with artificial intelligence, with high-tech. 

However, the Hacking experience perfectly summarizes and channels how deepfakes works, what this type of product currently generates. 

When I saw Lil’s Hacking… I was off the hook, although only for five minutes. I felt shame (for those names exposed) and a little bit morbid. The conversations hacked belonged to some of my idols, my friends, partners in general. I fantasized about the probability that all that were real, even when I was aware of some kind of fakes. Maybe because my name didn’t appear on the wall. 

I can only say it was a delicious trip. I do not say it with malice. I think Lil could have messed with other characters. That’s what deepfakes are about. It seems to me that he/she could have messed with our political figures. Which, however, would not have been so alarming. It would be related to LuisMa or Hamlet Lavastida (for me, one of the possible candidates behind Lil Puñeta). The work is consistent within the curatorial criteria of The Eighth Circle, as it refers to fakes, simulation, authorship, copying, originality in the history of art. 

Lil mess around in a deeper way. I imagine he/she knows what he/she gets into. Legal issues do not currently cover deepfakes. But Cuba is a legal paradise to develop all this. Everything nothing happens in here. The possible problems that @Lil_Puneta will face are institutional: with artists, critics and curators who do not understand it, who are not prepared for his/her game. 

Lil is as violent as Bill, the Mattes, Paolo and Cirio. Maybe that takes its toll on our guild. Out of here, I don’t think his/her content transcends. It’s the 15 minutes Warhol was talking about! If my name had appeared in his/her work, I would have taken a selfie and shared it on my socials. That way I would also enjoy my moment of fame.

I think that artists like Lil “steal” and / or manipulate the content that “his/her victims” have already decided that they are capable of showing publicly. It is the users themselves who (self) expose  – consciously or unconsciously – when they publish their images or write their criteria on social platforms. It is what it is! Privacy in these practices is not linked to the exposure of certain types of information, but to control who knows what about you. 

Seeing is believing

Misinformation is increasingly powerful in our levels of political and social polarization. We are all vulnerable to it. Normally we tend to think that perception, as evidenced by our eyes and ears, provides sufficient justification to believe that something is real. However, your senses could betray you. In comparison, a testimony would provide some reliability, but never as perception. 

Until a while ago, video evidence worked more or less like perception. He believed in the relevance of the camera, which is almost like seeing with your own eyes. If you trusted your own perception, you had the same reason to trust the video. Fiction at the audiovisual level was exclusive to Hollywood. But now the Internet disputes it. 

With the emergence of deepfake technology, the ability to produce fake videos is almost as widespread as the ability to lie. Therefore, we should think of images less as perception and more as a testimony of reality. Trust a video, an image, a content, if you trust the person or site that produces it. 

Or just don’t scratch. Enjoy the process. Believe what you want. 

Originally published by Hypermedia Magazine

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