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Student deepfakes reflective of school porn crisis

Disturbing doctoring of about 50 teenage girls’ photos to create fake nude images reflects a broader pornography-driven crisis in schools, an expert warns.

Jun 12, 2024, updated Jun 12, 2024
A teenager has been arrested after explicit AI images of female students at Bacchus Marsh Grammar in Melbourne's northwest circulated online. (AAP Image/Diego Fedele)

A teenager has been arrested after explicit AI images of female students at Bacchus Marsh Grammar in Melbourne's northwest circulated online. (AAP Image/Diego Fedele)

Sexual Assault Services Victoria chief executive Kathleen Maltzahn said the circulation of manipulated social media photos of students of Bacchus Marsh Grammar, north of Melbourne, showed there was a lack of education about the illegality of image-based abuse.

The availability of online AI programs meant boys and men could create and distribute deepfake porn, Ms Maltzahn said.

“We’re seeing primary school children, little boys, making noises from pornography in classrooms,” she told AAP.

“We’re seeing significant levels of children using sexual harm against others.

“We need to get ahead as much as possible of the deepfake stuff and have structures or resources in place so we can work with schools so that we can move boys away from this behaviour.”

Education authorities needed to be better resourced to respond to sexual violence in schools, and the federal government should step up its regulation of social media companies, Maltzahn said.

“Schools are not equipped to deal with this, and they come to our services, and our services are not funded at the level we need to be able to go into schools and give an emergency response,” she said.

“Pornography is significantly carried by Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and the rest, so we can do something about those companies.

“Governments have to have some courage because if they continue to let this go, we’re looking at really, really significant damage.”

Laws cracking down on the sharing of sexually explicit AI-generated images and deepfakes without consent were introduced to federal parliament on June 5.

However, some politicians remain concerned about the persistent availability of online programs to create deepfakes.

Several apps offered prompts including “undressing someone”, “body retouch”, “hot looks”, “spicy images” and “pushing the boundaries” – usually under subscriber content.

Face swaps, replicating outfits to “short uniforms”, overlaying faces on pornographic content and inserting sexually explicit photos were accessible within half a dozen clicks.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar said it was counselling students after it was made aware of the production and circulation of video content including images of about 50 students.

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“Bacchus Marsh Grammar is taking this matter very seriously and has contacted Victoria Police,” acting principal Kevin Richardson said in a statement.

Victoria Police officers arrested a teenager over the explicit images circulated online and he was released pending further inquiries.

The mother of one 16-year-old student learned of the images on Saturday and picked up her daughter from a sleepover.

“She was very upset, and she was throwing up and it was incredibly graphic,” Emily – who did not provide her surname – told ABC Radio Melbourne on Wednesday.

“As a parent we try and educate our children, our daughters (to have) private accounts (and) hone it in … it’s just unavoidable. They were all private accounts.

“She was cropped out but there’s just that feeling of, will it come up, will this happen again.”

The state’s Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas described the incident as “absolutely abhorrent” and said it was a wake-up call to families to have direct conversations with young people about respect.

“Quite clearly, young people are accessing material on the internet, and through social media, that is influencing their behaviours in ways that I think we all agree, are out of step with community expectations, and indeed, are beyond that, actually causing real harm to other young people,” Thomas said.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

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