Google moves deepfake porn sites lower in its search rankings


Even though the websites have been lowered in rankings, they still appear in search results. And that’s led some victims’ advocates to say Google’s changes are too little too late. — Bloomberg

Google is making it harder for users of its search engine to find websites that host AI-generated deepfake pornography after months of lobbying by victims and advocates of tighter controls.

The company is lowering such content in search rankings, a spokesperson said, adding Google is “continuing to decrease the visibility of involuntary synthetic pornography in search and develop more safeguards as this space evolves”.

Offenders are employing AI tools to fabricate sex acts using real faces or bodies. Google search has been the primary traffic driver to these websites, Bloomberg reported last year, and in mid-2023 accounted for almost half of the desktop traffic to the top deepfake website, Mrdeepfakes.com, according to the analytics firm Similarweb. Some states have banned deepfake porn, but there is no federal prohibition.

On Google, a search for any well-known celebrity matched with the word “deepfake” points users to sites like Mrdeepfakes.com, which received 12 million views in November 2023. Now, the search division of Alphabet Inc is making it harder to find such sites.

The company has “been actively developing new protections in search to help people affected by this content, building on our existing policies”, the spokesperson said.

Since April, US-based search traffic to the top two deepfake pornography websites has plummeted, according to data from Similarweb. The data encompass all search engines, including Microsoft Corp’s Bing and DuckDuckGo, but Google accounts for between 80% and 90% of queries, according to some estimates.

Desktop search traffic to Mrdeepfakes.com, was 21% lower in the first 10 days of May compared with the prior six months’ average, the Similarweb data show. The second most-popular site’s search traffic was down 25%.

Google has offered victims of deepfake pornography tools to request the removal of websites, images and videos from search results, including an opt-out form.

Even though the websites have been lowered in rankings, they still appear in search results. And that’s led some victims’ advocates to say Google’s changes are too little too late.

“The deranking of deepfake porn websites by Google and other search engines is great for victims, but also the bare minimum,” said Carrie Goldberg, an attorney who represents people who have been victimised by the nonconsensual sharing of sexual material. “Google has ruined lives and is shamefully inflexible at responding to developing problems.” – Bloomberg

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