Sexually explicit AI images of Taylor Swift on X sparks backlash

Sexually explicit AI images of Taylor Swift triggers fierce backlash against X

Social media platform X has blocked searches for Taylor Swift after sexually explicit AI images of the singer spread on the platform last week.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Government said they were “alarmed” by the images, which used Swift’s likeness without her consent.

Swift’s popularity is at near unprecedented levels, with many of her Eras Tour shows sold out.

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened?

Several AI generated images of Taylor Swift were shared on X on Friday.

The New York Times estimated one of the images was shared 47 million times. It also spread onto other platforms including Facebook.

The hashtag #ProtectTaylorSwift trended after the images went viral, with fans reporting accounts that shared the content.

On Friday, X’s safety account said: “Posting Non-Consensual Nudity (NCN) images is strictly prohibited on X and we have a zero-tolerance policy towards such content”.

Since then, the platform has blocked searches for “Taylor Swift”.

In a statement to media, X’s head of business operations Joe Benarroch said: “This is a temporary action and done with an abundance of caution as we prioritise safety on this issue”.

White House

In a press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden’s administration took AI “very seriously”.

She questioned whether social media companies are doing enough to prevent the spread of “misinformation and nonconsensual, intimate imagery of real people”.

Jean-Pierre added the issue primarily impacts women and girls who are the “overwhelming targets” of online harassment.

U.S. reaction

Democrat Congressman Joe Morelle called the images “abhorrent”. He added that AI generated intimate images also affect “women and girls everywhere, every day”.

Last year, Morelle and other representatives from both parties introduced a bill that would criminalise sharing, or threatening to share, AI generated sexually explicit images without consent.

The bill is under review.

Online safety

X has faced growing criticism over its safety regulations since billionaire Elon Musk acquired the platform (then Twitter) in 2022.

Earlier this month, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner reported 80% of safety engineers at the platform have been fired since Musk took over.

The platform released its “Freedom of Speech, Not Reach” plan last April. The strategy prioritises limiting the distribution of controversial posts rather than deleting them altogether.

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