We Can't Hide, Need Solutions: AI Expert Madhumita Murgia On Deepfakes

In a recent exclusive interview on The Rulebreaker Show, AI expert and journalist Madhumita Murgia talks about the gendered impact of deepfake videos, shedding light on the implications they hold, particularly for women.

Ishika Thanvi
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Image: Instagram/ rulebreakershow

In a recent exclusive interview on The Rulebreaker Show, AI expert and journalist Madhumita Murgia talks about the gendered impact of deepfake videos, shedding light on the implications they hold, particularly for women. Murgia, in conversation with Shaili Chopra, founder of SheThePeople & Gytree, articulated the complexities surrounding this emerging technology, emphasizing the vulnerability it poses to individuals' identities, especially women. 


The Intricacies of Deepfake Vulnerability

Murgia highlights the sobering reality that deepfake victimization transcends the realm of celebrity status, affecting ordinary women navigating their daily lives. She recounted instances where unsuspecting women, devoid of any celebrity status or activist professions, fell prey to the machinations of deepfake technology. 

Challenging the Blame Game

One of the most poignant reflections from Murgia's discourse was her rejection of victim-blaming narratives. She adamantly asserted that irrespective of one's online presence or advocacy efforts, falling victim to deepfake manipulation is in no way a reflection of one's actions or shortcomings. The simplicity yet sophistication of deepfake technology renders anyone susceptible to its usage, irrespective of their background or intentions.


Empowering Women in the Digital Sphere

Rather than retreating from the digital landscape or succumbing to self-imposed restrictions, Murgia advocated for a collective effort to safeguard women's digital rights. Murgia, who recently won the Science and Technology Journalist of the Year Award at The Press Awards 2024, emphasized the imperative for governmental intervention to hold accountable those who weaponize technology to exploit and manipulate ordinary women. The onus, according to Murgia, lies not on individuals to retreat from the digital realm but on governments to enact measures ensuring accountability and protection.

Evolution of Deepfakes: From Celebrities to Commoners

Agnes E. Venema, from Women in International Security, draws a parallel between deepfakes and the ubiquitous practice of photoshopping images. However, unlike their static counterparts, deepfakes pose a dynamic threat by manipulating videos to an extent where distinguishing between authentic and fabricated content becomes near impossible. Venema delineates the two primary methods of deepfake creation: image creation and morphing, both of which contribute to the proliferation of increasingly convincing deepfake videos.

Gender Disparities in Deepfake Victimization

The gendered dimension of deepfake victimization is glaringly evident, with women bearing the brunt of its repercussions. Research indicates that a significant majority of victims of image-based sexual violence, facilitated by deepfake technology, are women. Moreover, the perpetration of such abuses is predominantly attributed to men, further accentuating the gendered nature of deepfake victimization.


Amplifying Threats Beyond Sexual Exploitation

While deepfakes initially garnered attention for their role in perpetuating non-consensual pornography, their implications extend far beyond sexual exploitation. The exponential growth and accessibility of deepfake technology have facilitated its weaponization in disinformation campaigns, posing grave threats to democratic processes and societal stability.

The discourse surrounding deepfake videos highlights the urgent need for proactive measures to combat their pernicious influence, particularly on women. As technology continues to evolve, so too must our efforts to mitigate its misuse and safeguard vulnerable individuals from its deleterious effects. By fostering a culture of accountability and empowerment, we can navigate the digital landscape with resilience and vigilance, ensuring that no individual falls victim to the insidious machinations of deepfake manipulation.

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