A programmer has created software that can remove clothing from images of women, allowing the user to see what a person looks like nude. Called DeepNude, the app had the greatest level of success when given images of women who were exposing a significant amount of skin. However, the fact that the app existed at all sparked a backlash.
DeepNude, which went live on March 28, used a machine learning algorithm and neural networks to virtually undress pictures of clothed women. The initial version of the app was designed only to work on women. Any images of men, once “undressed,” displayed female anatomy when the app’s process was complete. However, the app’s creator had said that he hoped to create a version that worked on men as well.
The app was most effective when the woman in the image had a substantial amount of skin exposed. “We tested the app on dozens of photos and got the most convincing results on high resolution images from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues,” according to a report by Vice.
While the media and politicians have largely focused on how deepfakes could be used to spread disinformation, the technology has also been used in devastating ways – such as through the creation of revenge port – against women. DeepNude is a version of deepfake technology, and can quickly create false images that may appear surprisingly real.
“This is absolutely terrifying,” said Katelyn Bowden, the founder and CEO of Badass, a revenge porn activism organization. “Now anyone could find themselves a victim of revenge porn, without ever having taken a nude photo. This tech should not be available to the public.”
Professor of law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law Danielle Citron said that the app is an “invasion of sexual privacy.”
“Yes, it isn’t your actual vagina, but… others think that they are seeing you naked,” said Citron. “As a deepfake victim said to me—it felt like thousands saw her naked, she felt her body wasn’t her own anymore.”
DeepNude garnered a significant amount of attention. Even though the premium version of the software came with a large price tag, hitting the $50 mark, a rush of traffic strained the creator’s servers.
It also sparked a viral backlash for how the software objectified women.
Ultimately, the anonymous programmer behind DeepNude – only known by the alias “Alberto” – announced on Thursday that the app would be taken down.