X blocks some Taylor Swift searches as pornographic deepfake images circulate online

Last week saw a surge in sexually explicit and abusive deepfake images of Taylor Swift circulating on X, formerly Twitter – making her the highest-profile target of a major problem that tech platforms and anti-abuse groups have struggled to fix.

The deepfake-detection group Reality Defender reported a significant influx of non-consensual pornographic material featuring Swift, particularly on X. Some of these images also found their way onto Meta-owned Facebook and other social media platforms.

When attempting to search for Taylor Swift’s name without quotation marks on the platform on Monday, users encountered an error message: “Don’t fret – it’s not your fault.”

However, enclosing her name in quotation marks allowed posts mentioning her to appear.

Joe Benarroch, head of business operations at X, clarified that the blocking of certain searches is a temporary precautionary measure, emphasising the platform’s commitment to prioritising safety on this matter.

In contrast to traditional doctored images that have previously affected celebrities, the Swift deepfakes were generated by using artificial intelligence capable of instantly creating new images based on a written prompt.

Following the online dissemination of these images, Swift’s fanbase, known as “Swifties”, launched a counteroffensive on X, using a #ProtectTaylorSwift hashtag to inundate the platform with positive images of the pop star. Some fans also reported accounts sharing the deepfakes.

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