South Korean society is discovering, however, that all that tech at the public’s fingertips also comes at a price.
More than 375,000 people have signed an online petition on the website for the presidential Blue House demanding that the government take action against “deepfake” pornography that sees the faces of famous Korean actresses morphed onto indecent images that are then circulated online. The petition was started just before a Seoulbased company was forced to pull the plug on an artificial intelligence-driven “chatbot” service after it started swearing, sending out lewd comments and described lesbians as “disgusting” and “creepy.” Equally, there have been calls for a discussion of the ethics surrounding what amounts to the resurrection of famous Korean singers who have died but are being brought “back to life” to perform at concerts through AI technology and holographic images. There are some who say it is merely the exploitation of the deceased to turn a profit for those who own the rights to their music today. “Technology is both a blessing and a challenge in every society, so I think that is also the case here in Korea,” said Dr Park Saing-in, an economist at Seoul National University.
“Part of the challenge is related to the ethics that are involved in the digital transformation of our society,” he added. “The public demands more and greater technological advances, but there are unquestionably problems that need to be addressed,” said Park. “Perhaps at the moment it is not such a big issue, but I do believe it is a more important matter for younger generations, those in their 20s and 30s, who have to be sensitive to the ways in which technology is used and can be abused.” If the discussion on the ethics attached to this type of technology has not yet commenced, the problems that it can cause are already much in evidence.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha, the largest women’s university in South Korea, said, “Sexism and the objectification of women remain endemic in Korean society. The proliferation and manipulation of female digital characters and deepfakes can further enable such antisocial behaviour.” A deepfake pornography petition launched online said, “Please strongly punish the illegal deepfake [images] that cause female celebrities to suffer.” The videos are distributed on social media, the anonymous petitioner stated, with their victims “tortured with malicious comments of a sexually harassing and insulting nature.” The campaign has also spread to social media, with Twitter users demanding that people who create such images be named and prosecuted. South Korea did pass new laws attempting to outlaw deepfake videos, with legislation that went into effect in June of last year, setting punishments of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won. If the crime was committed for commercial gain, the term can be increased to seven years. The new regulations do not appear to have put an end to the problem.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle