Reported by the Motherboard at the end of June, a new app called DeepNude that promised with a single click to transform a clothed photo of any woman, into a convincing nude image, by just using machine learning. The DeepNude app has been pulled by its creator and removed from GitHub, afterwards the weeks since this report, although open source copies have surfaced there in recent days.
Even after the app’s removal, there is still a lingering problem with the DeepNude that goes beyond its technical advances, and the ease of use. The idea behind it is something older and deeper, something far more intractable and far harder to even erase from internet than a piece of open source code.
The DeepNude has focused on the specific dangers, that posed by its technical advances. “DeepNude is an evolution of that technology that is easier to use and faster to create than deepfakes,” wrote Samantha Cole in Motherboard’s initial report on the app. “DeepNude also dispenses with the idea that this technology can be used for anything other than claiming ownership over women’s bodies.” With its promise of single-click undressing of any woman, it made it easier than ever to manufacture naked photos and, by extension, to use those fake nudes to harass, extort, and publicly shame women everywhere.
The Fake nudes have even a long history before the DeepNude, there was Photoshop, before the internet, and there was Screw.
The porn magazine Screw had fired shots at feminist Gloria Steinem, back in the 1970s, with a nude drawing of the Ms. founder, by surrounding her image with penises and also encouraging the readers to play a game of “Pin the Cock on the Feminist.”
The Spy Magazine undressed then First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton, after two decades later, presenting her in bondage gear on cover February 1993 issue. If look at the history, the DeepNude’s status as merely latest iteration in the longstanding trend has already been invoked by some of its defenders.
“What you can do with DeepNude, you can do very well with Photoshop,” the program’s creator told Motherboard in an interview. “Women don’t sit around alone in their bedrooms writing technology that objectifies men”
While like DeepNude’s creator, the technology may aid a mission of men who goes by the name Alberto, that app isn’t actually a project about potential of A.I and machine learning. Alberto has cited the gadgets like supposed X-Ray specs that he saw ads for in the backs of magazines, that are from the 1960s and 1970s as the inspiration for DeepNude. Desire made manifest by app’s code is one that we have seen over and over in the pop culture, that is a desire for control over the women’s bodies and sexuality, and also a willingness to shame the women who step out of line, by offering their bodies up for public consumption.
“There has to be an absolute paradigm shift in how we understand women’s roles and how comfortable we are with… any sexuality that does not privilege men at the center,” says Zeisler. “It seems like a much more sci-fi prospect than any kind of technology.”