How underage girls are being sexually exploited by AI deepfakes in Spain

Police in a small Spanish town are investigating the alleged distribution of fake nude images of underage girls created using artificial intelligence, in a case that has shocked the country.

Javier Izquierdo, head of the cyber crime unit for offences involving minors, said 11 boys aged between 12 and 14 were being investigated over the complaints in Almendralejo in the far south-west of Spain.

Mr Izquierdo said girls had received images via WhatsApp or Telegram showing them with their faces superimposed on the naked bodies of others.

They became aware of the images when these began to circulate at schools in the town, which has a population of only 30,000.

Police said the alleged perpetrators of these images “manipulated photos of underage girls” to place their faces on images of naked bodies of other people using an AI app that can produce realistic photomontages.

Mr Izquierdo said the boys over 14 could face criminal charges but younger children were below the age of criminality under Spanish law.

Penalties range from between five and nine years in prison. No arrests have been made.

“We want to make people aware of the risk of this technology and its misuse,” Mr Izquierdo told reporters.

AI is causing increased concern because the technology can be used to create deepfakes – realistic computer generated images based on a template.

Miriam Al Adib, mother of four girls, said one of her daughters had been a victim of a deepfake.

“When I came home, one of my daughters, who was really upset, told me, ‘Look what they did.’ It turns out they took a photo of her, and they made it seem as if she was naked with the aid of artificial intelligence,” Ms Al Adib wrote on Instagram.

“Girls don’t be afraid to report such acts. Tell your mothers,” she added.

Police said that the images may have been distributed on OnlyFans, an online subscription platform for adult content, or on pornographic sites.

Another mother said perpetrators tried to blackmail her daughter, with the creators of the images demanding money not to distribute them.

In May, Spanish pop star Rosalía was the victim of a deepfake supposedly showing topless images of her, which she later said was a form of “violence against women”.

A survey found 96 per cent of deepfake videos online are non-consensual pornography, mostly depicting women, according to a 2019 study by Sensity, a Dutch company.