Conversations and insights on the spot.

Patrick HealyDeputy director of opinion

Nick, you have been covering the exploitation, abuse and trafficking of women and girls in depth for years. Your latest article on deepfake nude videos showed us new ways in which technology has become a vile weapon against them. What did you learn in reporting the piece that surprised you?

Nicola KristofOpinionist

What shocked me most was simply the failure of regulators, legislators, and tech companies to show much concern about the humiliation of victims, even as sleazy companies post non-consensual fake sex videos and make money from it. Women and girls are being targeted, but the tech community’s response has mostly been a collective shrug. Why should Google, whose original motto was “don’t be evil,” be a pillar of this ecosystem and drive traffic to websites whose business is non-consensual pornography?

Even when child victims turn to the police, there is usually no good solution. We have effectively armed predators and exploitative companies with artificial intelligence, but we have denied victims any defense.

Patrick Healy

You write: “With just one good image of a person’s face, it is now possible in just half an hour to make a 60 second sex video. Is there a way people can protect themselves?

Nicola Kristof

Some experts advise girls or women to avoid posting images on public Instagram or Facebook pages. This seems unrealistic to me. Some of the victims are important women whose images are everywhere: a deepfake site has appropriated the official portrait of a congresswoman. Or sometimes an ordinary woman or girl is targeted by an ex-boyfriend or classmate, who probably already has photos.

Because it is so difficult for individuals to protect themselves, we need systemic solutions, such as changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so that there is less immunity for tech companies that misbehave. End impunity e incentivize companies to monitor themselves.

Patrick Healy

Among the statistics that froze me was this: “Graphika, an online analytics company, identified 34 nudity websites that received a combined score 24 million unique visitors only in September.” These numbers are huge. What does this tell you about our society?

Nicola Kristof

A generation ago it was argued that social networks would bring us together. In fact, I think we’ve become more atomised, with screen time replacing people time. Some experts believe that in an age of social isolation, porn is becoming an easy way to avoid the complexity and frustration of dealing with real people. Meanwhile, the casual cruelty we see on social media parallels the cruelty we see on deepfake sites showing actresses, princesses, singers or politicians being raped.

It is difficult to watch these exploitative and non-consensual videos and not perceive the misogyny, both in the videos and in a system that tolerates them and provides victims with no remedies.

Photography by Larysa Shcherbyna/Getty Images