X blocks searches of Taylor Swift to combat explicit deepfakes

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The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has blocked searches of pop superstar Taylor Swift after explicit, artificial intelligence (AI) generated images went viral on social media, an executive confirmed Sunday.

As of Sunday night, searches of “Taylor Swift” on the social media platform showed the error message, “Something went wrong. Try reloading.”

Joe Benarroch, head of business operations at X, confirmed the move to The Hill.

“A temporary action and done with an abundance of caution as we prioritize safety on this issue,” Benarroch said in a statement Sunday.

Fake sexually explicit images of Swift circulated online last week, prompting backlash from fans, who flooded the platform with positive photos of the singer with the #ProtectTaylorSwift hashtag.

Deepfake-detecting group Reality Defend said it tracked several nonconsensual pornographic materials depicting Swift, which spread to “millions and millions” of users by the time some were taken down, Mason Allen, Reality Defender’s head of growth, told The Associated Press.

The images were mostly found on X, though some were found on Meta-owned Facebook and other social media platforms, the news wire added.

The White House last week said the circulation of explicit AI-generated content — often called deepfakes — of Swift were “alarming.”

“While social media companies make their own independent decisions about content management, we believe they have an important role to play in enforcing their own rules to prevent the spread of misinformation and non-consensual, intimate imagery of real people,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last Friday.

The incident sparked conversations about the risks that come with AI-generated content and renewed calls from federal lawmakers on social media platforms to better enforce rules against deepfakes.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella urged for more “guardrails” on AI following the incident.

President Biden in October signed a sweeping executive order on AI that focused on managing the safety and privacy risks that come with the emerging technology.

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