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Italian PM Giorgia Meloni's seeks 100,000 euros in compensation over deepfake videos

A 40-year-old man thought to have produced the videos and his 73-year-old father are under investigation in the matter. The videos were uploaded on a adult website and viewed "millions of times" when Meloni was head of her party and not the PM yet.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Rome Published on: March 22, 2024 12:33 IST
Italy PM, Giorgia Meloni, deepfake
Image Source : AP (FILE) Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Rome: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is due to testify before a court in the Sardinian city of Sassari on July 2 after deepfake sexually explicit videos of her surfaced online. Meloni has sought 100,000 euros in damages after the videos were uploaded and said she will donate any award to a fund for women victims of domestic violence, according to Italian media reports citing her attorney.

Italy's postal police in 2020 identified the father and son who allegedly uploaded the deep fake images to a US-based porn site by tracing the data to one of their cell phones. At that time, Meloni was the head of her Brothers of Italy party. The Italian PM's attorney Maria Giulia Marongiu said any award would be "symbolic" to tell women of such abuses of power not to refrain from filing complaints.

According to BBC, a 40-year-old man, who is thought to have produced the videos, and his 73-year-old father are under investigation. Both men are accused of defamation, some of which can be criminal under Italian law and carry a custodial sentence. The videos were posted on a US pornographic website, where they were viewed "millions of times" over several months.

A deepfake image is one where the face of one person is digitally added to the body of another through artificial intelligence, which appears authentic. Deepfake porn has become commonplace on the internet in recent years and several victims have spoken out about the trauma of seeing their faces digitally edited in sexually explicit scenes.

Earlier, deepfake pornographic images of popstar Taylor Swift sent shockwaves through the internet, prompting the White House to call it "alarming". X eventually removed the images and blocked searches to the pop star’s name as Swift was reportedly weighing possible legal action against the website responsible for generating the deepfakes.

Deepfake in India

Recently, several 'deepfake' videos targeting leading actors went viral, sparking public outrage and raising concerns over the misuse of technology and tools for creating doctored content and fake narratives. Several celebrities, including Rashmika Mandanna, Alia Bhatt, Katrina KaifPriyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have fallen victim to the altered photographs.

A video of Prime Minister Narendra Modi doing a garba dance also made headlines previously. The Indian government has issued an advisory to all social media platforms to comply with IT rules amid growing concerns around deepfakes. According to the advisory, content not permitted under IT rules must be clearly communicated to users, the IT Ministry has told social media platforms.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the IT Minister of India, stated that deepfake video-making organisations have grown as a new threat to democracy and the Indian government is considering bringing in new regulations to safeguard people’s identities. 

"AI has several positive impacts, but it has many negative impacts too, which is a matter of concern. AI can become the biggest tool in the development of the 21st century. But it can also play the biggest role in destroying the 21st century... Deepfake is a challenge for the whole world... AI tools going into the hands of terrorists are also a big threat. If terrorist organisations get AI weapons, this will have a huge impact on global security... We need to plan how to tackle this," said PM Modi at the Global Partnership on AI Summit last year.

(with AP inputs)

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