Spanish town in shock after AI-generated images of naked underage girls are leaked online

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Sep 25, 2023 at 01:33 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

A quiet town in southern Spain has been shaken by the revelation that AI-generated nude images of local young girls have recently started circulating online. The images were first taken from the young victims’ social media platforms without their knowledge or consent and were then processed through an artificial intelligence-powered image generator capable of transforming photos into explicit images.

Over 20 girls, ranging in age from 11 to 17, have bravely come forward as victims of this disturbing application’s use in or near Almendralejo, a town located in the southwestern province of Badajoz.

Speaking to the BBC, María Blanco Rayo, the mother of a 14-year-old girl, recounts the distressing moment when her daughter informed her about the circulation of topless photos: “One day my daughter came out of school and she said, ‘Mum, photos are circulating of me topless.’ I asked her if she had taken any photos of herself nude, and she said, ‘No, Mum, these are fake photos of girls that are being created a lot right now, and there are other girls in my class that this has happened to as well.’

To support their children and address this deeply troubling issue, the parents of 28 affected girls have united to form a support group in the town. Law enforcement authorities have initiated an investigation into these events. As per reports, at least eleven local boys have been identified as having some kind of involvement in either creating these explicit images or disseminating them via messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.

Investigators are also looking into a chilling claim that someone attempted to blackmail one of the girls using a fake nude image of her.

The emotional impact of this malicious use of AI has affected the girls involved in various ways. While some, such as Blanco Rayo’s daughter, are coping relatively well, others have been so profoundly affected that they are unable to leave their homes.

Almendralejo, a town known for its olive and red wine production, is unaccustomed to such sudden attention. However, the courageous efforts of Doctor Miriam Al Adib, the mother of one of the girls and a gynaecologist with a prominent social media presence, have brought this issue to the forefront of Spanish public discourse.

Doctor Al Adib utilised her platform to reassure the affected girls and their parents, sparking a national conversation about this deeply distressing situation. Although many of these AI-generated images were believed to have been created over the summer, the case only became widely known in recent days following Dr Al Adib’s message.

In a series of videos posted to her Instagram, Dr Al Adib expressed her support and empathy for all the victims involved. In one video, the expert stated: “We didn’t know how many children had the images if they had been uploaded to pornographic sites—we had all those fears… When you are the victim of a crime, if you are robbed, for example, you file a complaint and you don’t hide because the other person has caused you harm. But with crimes of a sexual nature, the victim often feels shame and hides and feels responsible. So I wanted to give that message: it’s not your fault.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dra. Miriam Al Adib Mendiri (@miriam_al_adib)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dra. Miriam Al Adib Mendiri (@miriam_al_adib)

The impact of this case extends beyond the girls and their families, generating widespread concern within the community. Gema Lorenzo, a local woman and mother, also expressed her fears to the media: “You worried about two things: if you have a son, you worry he might have done something like this; and if you have a daughter, you even more worried because it’s an act of violence.”

Francisco Javier Guerra, a local painter and decorator, placed the responsibility on the parents of the boys involved: “They should have done something before, like take their phones away or install an application that tells them what their children are doing with their phone.”

Sadly, this is not the first time a crime of this nature has occurred in Spain. Earlier this year, AI-generated topless images of the singer Rosalía were widely shared on social media by a photographer—an act the artist labelled as disgusting and a form of sexual abuse, as reported by Jezebel.

Javier Izquierdo, the head of children’s protection in the national police’s cyber-crime unit, highlights the evolving challenge: “These kinds of crimes are no longer confined to the guy who downloads child porn from the dark web or some hidden internet forum… That is still going on, but now the new challenges we are facing are the access that minors have at such an early age [to such technology], such as in this case.”

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