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Welcome to the age of ‘deepfake’ porn: Your starring role in a sex film is just a few selfies away

In the future everyone will be an involuntary AI-enabled porn star for 15 minutes.

Remember that time you filmed a gang bang scene? Or the time you had a threesome with two well-endowed men who, as the porn parlance has it, ran a train on you? You don’t? It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to physically be present anymore to be shanghaied into an involuntary career as a porn star.

Thanks to an easy to use face-mapping app called FakeApp, Reddit and the rest of the internet are awash with clips of practically any (usually female) celebrity you can think of, engaged in a cornucopia of curious sex acts. What’s particularly unsettling here — beyond the obvious complete lack of consent — is the popularity of female celebrities who first found fame as children. Emma Watson and Maisie Williams are “faves” on the most popular subreddits dedicated to the ‘pretend’ porn.

The celebrity angle is tailor-made to have screen shots of these videos plastered all over the websites of The Sun and MailOnline, all dressed up as public interest (aka the public is interested in masturbating over celebrities they otherwise wouldn’t see having sex). But the bigger issue will be as these technologies are picked up by the kind of people for whom revenge porn has long been an attractive weapon.

For you to be turned into a machine-learning enabled porn performer, starring in clips posted to every porn site on the web, an ex won’t need images of you naked. Every selfie you’ve ever posted will be enough. A few hundred photos and any one of us could be convincingly cast in truly unsettling and upsetting scenes. How do you explain to your employer that you didn’t film a sex tape when there’s a clip that convincingly shows your face mapped on to the body of a porn star who has at least a reasonable resemblance to you?

The law has only just caught up with the selfie culture and the pervasive nature of sexting, revenge porn and smartphones in every single person’s hand. Now, legislators will need to get their heads around the new implications for image rights. Your theoretical disgruntled ex will own the rights to photos of you taken by them, but you own your image rights.

The difference though, between you and I, and the celebrities who will now be spinning up their legal teams to issue takedown notices and get “deepfake” dirty videos of them taken down, is that we don’t have those resources. It’s extremely difficult to get videos pulled down and they spread across sites with frightening speed.

It’s probably time for the latest update to Andy Warhol’s infamous aphorism: In the future — the very near future — everyone will be an involuntary AI-enabled porn star for 15 minutes. But the trouble is, those faked clips will hang around for far longer than 15 minutes and it’ll take a lot, lot, longer for you to explain that while it looks like you and sounds like you, it really isn’t. And people wonder why I can’t be bothered to binge on Black Mirror... 

Mic Wright is a freelance journalist and CEO and partner at The Means Agency.

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Tackling tuition fees may not be the vote-winner the government is hoping for

In theory, Theresa May is right to try to match Labour’s policy. But could it work?

Part of the art of politics is to increase the importance of the issues you win on and to decrease or neutralise the importance of the issues your opponent wins on. That's part of why Labour will continue to major on police cuts, as a device to make the usually Labour-unfriendly territory of security more perilous for the Tories.

One of the advantages the Conservatives have is that they are in government – I know it doesn't always look like it – and so they can do a lot more to decrease the importance of Labour's issues than the Opposition can do to theirs.

So the theory of Theresa May's big speech today on higher education funding and her announcement of a government review into the future of the university system is sound. Tuition fees are an area that Labour win on, so it makes sense to find a way to neutralise the issue.

Except there are a couple of problems with May's approach. The first is that she has managed to find a way to make a simple political question incredibly difficult for herself. The Labour offer is “no tuition fees”, so the Conservatives essentially either need to match that or move on. But the one option that has been left off the table is abolition, the only policy lever that could match Labour electorally.

The second, even bigger problem is that it it turns out that tuition fees might not have been the big election-moving event that we initially thought they were. The British Electoral Survey caused an earthquake of their own by finding that the “youthquake” – the increase in turn-out among 18-24-year-olds – never happened. Younger voters were decisive, both in how they switched to Labour and in the overall increase in turnout among younger voters, but it was in that slightly older 25-35 bracket (and indeed the 35-45 one as well) that the big action occurred.

There is an astonishingly powerful belief among the Conservative grassroots, such as it is, that Jeremy Corbyn's NME interview in which the he said that existing tuition fee debt would be “dealt with” was decisive. That belief, I'm told, extends all the way up to May's press chief, Robbie Gibb. Gibb is the subject of increasing concern among Tory MPs and ministers, who regularly ask journalists what they make of Robbie, if Robbie is doing alright, before revealing that they find his preoccupations – Venezuela, Corbyn's supposed pledge to abolish tuition fee debt – troublingly marginal.

Because the third problem is that any policy action on tuition fees comes at a huge cost to the Treasury, a cost that could be spent easing the pressures on the NHS, which could neutralise a Labour strength, or the financial strains on schools, another area of Labour strength. Both of which are of far greater concern to the average thirtysomething than what anyone says or does about tuition fees.

Small wonder that Team Corbyn are in an ebullient mood as Parliament returns from recess.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.