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    Deepfake Porn Reveals a ‘Pervert’s Dilemma’

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    April 10th was A very bad day in the life of star gamer and YouTuber Atrioc (Brandon Ewing). Ewing was broadcasting one of his usual Twitch live streams when his browser window accidentally became visible to his audience. In those few moments, viewers were suddenly faced with seemingly fake porn videos starring fellow YouTubers and gamers QTCinderella and Pokimane, and as far as I know, Ewings as well Friends. Moments later, a quick-witted viewer uploaded a screenshot of the scene to Reddit, and the scandal was a fact.

    Deepfakes broadly refer to media manipulated by AI, which typically involves overlaying a person’s face with, say, an actor’s face in a film or video clip. But unfortunately, as Vice journalist Samantha Cole reported, its primary function was to produce porn starring female celebrities, and perhaps more disturbingly, to visualize sexual fantasies of friends or others Acquaintance. Now, with the increased sophistication and availability, anyone who has a picture of your face can basically make porn out of it. “We’re all screwed,” Cole puts it succinctly.

    I think it’s obvious to most people that Ewing committed some sort of wrongdoing in consuming his friends’ fictional but non-consensual pornography. In fact, the comments on Reddit and the strong (justified) reactions of the women whose faces were used in the clips show a deep sense of disgust. That’s understandable, but pinpointing the crime scene is a surprisingly difficult task. In fact, this task brings to the fore a philosophical problem that is forcing us to reconsider not only porn, but also the nature of human imagination. I call it the pervert’s dilemma.

    On the one hand, it could be argued that by consuming the material, Ewing created an incentive for its production and distribution, which could ultimately damage the reputation and well-being of his fellow players. But I doubt the verdict would have been much lighter in the eyes of the public if he had produced the videos himself for personal enjoyment. And few people see its failure to close the tab as the main problem. So the crime seems to lie in the actual consumption of the deepfakes, not the downstream effects of it. Consumption of deepfakes is absolutely wrong, regardless of whether the people “impersonating” in the clips or anyone else find out about it.

    At the same time, we are equally certain that sexual fantasies are morally neutral. In fact, no one (except perhaps some die-hard Catholics) would have blamed Ewing for creating pornographic images of QTCinderella in his mind. But what is actually the difference? Both the fantasy and the deepfake are essentially virtual images generated by previous data entry, only one exists in the mind, the other on a screen. While the latter is more easily shared, if the crime is in personal consumption rather than external repercussions, this should be irrelevant. Hence the pervert’s dilemma: we believe that sexual fantasies are fine so long as they are always generated and contained only in a person’s mind, and loathsome when they exist in the brain with the help of some reasonably realistic representation—yet we have trouble To identify them morally relevant distinction to justify this assessment.

    In the long run, this will likely force us to reevaluate our moral stance toward both deepfakes and sexual fantasies, at least as far as we want to maintain consistency in our morality. There are two obvious ways this could happen.

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