How this app could steal your face to make porn

by Perry West

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credit: perfectlab/Shutterstock

A new app allows users to digitally alter pornography videos, placing the faces of celebrities onto the bodies of porn stars.  

Called FakeApp, the program uses neural network technology to replace the faces of pornographic actors with celebrities, or, if enough video is available, with the faces of ordinary people.

The app does not require programming skills; it can be used by anyone with the kind of computer capable of running detailed video games.

Father Sean Kilcawley, director of marriage and family life ministries in the Diocese of Lincoln, and a nationally recognized speaker on the theology of the body, said fake pornography is as spiritually damaging to the soul as any other porn, but socially, the trend has the potential to be uniquely destructive.

“Pornography is pornography, in terms of it being evil. It’s always evil. [Fake pornography] is not anything that is actually brand new because there have been fake pornography photos for a very long time,” he told CNA.  

“One of the dangers of this technology, though, is that some kid is going to take some girl’s yearbook photo and put her on a porn stars body,” he said.

The creator of the app has expressed hope that his face-swamping platform will become more available and accessible.

“Eventually, I want to improve it to the point where prospective users can simply select a video on their computer, download a neural network correlated to a certain face from a publicly available library, and swap the video with a different face with the press of one button,” the app’s creator told Motherboard.

Matt Fradd, author of “The Porn Myth” and host to the podcast “Love People Use Things,” cautioned against the danger of the app, which he said will invade the celebrities’ privacy and inflict harm upon their reputation.  

“It will get to the point where we’re not really sure if whether Jennifer Aniston just did a porn film, or whoever the celebrity is, or if this is one of the AI things. So we are dragging people’s reputation through the mud and we are humiliating them,” Fradd told CNA.

But it won’t stop there, he continued.

“If they can do that with celebrities they can do that with your sister or with your mom if they wanted to.”

Father Kilcawley agreed, cautioning that face-swapping pornography will damage reputations and self-esteem.

“For the humiliation a girl would have if they put her face on a porn star’s body, and then sent the video around to everybody in school … Not only [damaging their reputation] but simply damaging them.”

The new technology, he said, follows a trend set by “revenge pornography” – a social media practice in which angry exes distribute nude photos or videos of former romantic partners.

“There has been a spike in suicides [because of] revenge pornography among young people, Kilcawley said.

A 2015 BBC analysis found that of 1,160 reported revenge pornography cases in England, 30 percent of the victims were under the age of 19.  

With the ability to feed an algorithm photos found online, Father Kilcawley expressed concern that face-swapping porn videos will also be used for revenge pornography, and, because of the advancements in technology, they will be even more damaging to young women than real photos or videos.

“It will be equally dangerous to someone’s soul who would be consuming it, but I think socially it may inflict a lot more damage than we are thinking about right now,” he said.

Fradd told CNA that Catholics should respond to pornography with the wisdom of the Church.  

“I think the Church has the answer to what is the human person and how we can be happy, just like the nutritionist has the answer to what should I be eating if I want a healthy body,” he said.

Pointing to John Paul II’s theology of the body, Fradd said the only proper response to the human person is love, and pornography always contradicts love.  

“Wojtyla says the human person is a good to which the only proper and adequate attitude is love, but when we consume pornography we are always engaging in something contrary to love, namely use.”

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