Deepfake Porn, Chatbots, And Even ‘Fan Fiction’ Under The Cosh In South Korea

By | January 20, 2021

luda AI chatbot sexualized banned

Future sex tech is increasingly coming under attack in South Korea, or if you prefer, under stricter regulation. A ‘hyper-sexualized’ female chatbot that also spewed racist insults has been suspended, while also serving to put the menace of deepfake porn back under the spotlight. At the same time, a debate has begun as to whether the old school tech of homemade celebrity erotic ‘fan fiction’ is a similar form of sexual harassment, that should likewise be covered under any new deepfake legislation, or whether it’s something very different and relatively harmless.

It began last week with ‘Lee Luda’, a popular AI chatbot for Facebook Messenger that is supposed to be a representation of a pretty 20 year old female university student. Fears that Luda was becoming ‘hyper-sexualized’ emerged after she became noted for using increasingly sexually explicit language, and even using derogatory language against both racial and sexual minorities. And according to the Guardian, even becoming a ‘victim’ of sexual harassment herself.

Luda, too, became a target by manipulative users, with online community boards posting advice on how to engage it in conversations about sex, including one that read: “How to make Luda a sex slave,” along with screen captures of conversations, according to the Korea Herald.

The start-up company behind Luda – Scatter Lab – decided to pull the chatbot from Facebook, no doubt leaving many of the 750,000 young South Koreans who used it for local information disappointed, although the company say the suspension is temporary.

The case of chatbot Luda seems to have poured more fuel on to a long running debate in South Korea over AI being used for sexual purposes, in particular to target and exploit Japanese K-Pop and other youth culture celebrities. Attention was drawn to the fact that Luda shared the same name as a member of the popular K-Pop band. More tellingly, it was pointed out that both share a beauty mark under their right eye.

Lee Luda chatbot and Cosmic Girl singer beauty marks

Image courtesy of Koreaboo.com

Passions were further inflamed on the news that the creators had previously been asked whether they expected their chatbot to be ‘sexually harassed’ (as others such as Microsoft’s ‘Tay’ allegedly were) and answered in the affirmative.

All this has served to put the spotlight back on to deepfake porn, which has been a particular concern in South Korea, especially with the vast majority of it targeting K-Pop celebrities. Despite the fact that (as far as I can tell at least) deepfake porn already having been made illegal in South Korea last summer, a petition has been set up calling for greater punishments against those producing and sharing deepfake porn, with over 250,000 signatures within hours. But rather more disturbingly, the hysteria over deepfake porn and the sexual exploitation of celebrities in South Korea, has also led to calls for the same punishments to be meted out to those who make ‘fan fiction’ – sexual stories written by fans to share with others that detail imagined sex lives of their favorite K-Pop stars (often involving same sex encounters).

A petition has been circulating in South Korea this week calling for sexualised fanfiction featuring K-pop stars and other real life people to be outlawed, but many are questioning the rationale behind the call.
The talking point of “real person slash” – shorthand for fan-written fiction, aka fanfiction depicting same-sex relationships – became a topic of discussion this week as some began to equate the fan-made creations with sex offences.
The petition rose to public attention shortly after secretly taken photos of Momoland member Nancy were manipulated and shared online earlier this week. The petition mainly focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and also questions the depiction of underage stars in the stories.
Another petition submitted on January 13 to South Korea’s presidential Blue House, to punish those who create deepfake porn videos featuring female entertainers, has over 337,000 signatures.

The debate over banning fan fiction is proving more controversial and divided in South Korea. Not only have cyber crime and other experts pointed out the huge difference between deepfake porn and erotic fan fiction, but some claim the two have become entwined because of defenders of the former attempting to draw analogies with the latter. It should be noted that deepfake porn is produced and consumed by mainly young men, whilst ‘fan fiction’ is mainly driven by young females.

Jeong expressed concerns about the intent behind the petition, which many perceive as an attempt to distract attention from the crimes committed by certain men shaming the largely female-driven fan community.
“It seems that the people petitioning to ban [the fanfiction] are not really concerned about the issues surrounding [them], but are trying to divert attention from the secret [groups] that upload deepfakes and molka and argue that [fanfiction involving real people] is harmful and sexual exploitation,” she told the Post.

“But the more they argue that [fanfiction] is harmful, the more it actually reveals how ignorant they are of the many ways Korean women are subject to misogyny, exploitation and objectification in their daily lives, and also how careless and inattentive they are when those deepfakes and molka can lead to serious crimes against women.”
Another source told the Post they were concerned about the momentum and intent of those spreading the petition, and suggested that the petition was prompted by the fanfiction’s homoerotic elements, not concern over the sexualised nature of the fan creations.

You can read the rest of the article the above two quotes come from at the South China Morning Post.

Is there really such a huge difference between deepfake porn and ‘fan fiction’? And further, does the fact that the market for one is mainly male, and the market for the other largely female, make any difference to how we should morally and legally distinguish between them?

The answer, at least to most South Koreans, is a yes to both.

Leave a Reply