TikTok's algorithm reportedly boosted "deepfake A.I. porn" of Billie Eilish

The images have finally been removed from the platform.

Billie Eilish attends the LACMA Art + Film Gala at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, ...
TikTok, you must stop

If you’ve been on Instagram or TikTok lately, you’ve likely noticed a growing trend of A.I.-generated portraits of family, friends, and casual acquaintances. Sure, they may have sparked oohs and aahs in comments sections at the time, but A.I. can quickly and easily take a dark turn — and Billie Eilish is the latest target.

According to a new report published by VICE World News on Wednesday, “deepfake A.I. porn” of the 20-year-old Grammy-winning artist recently circulated on users’ TikTok For You pages. The overtly sexualized images of the singer — the product of popular A.I. apps like Lensa or Midjourney — were reportedly viewed by 11 million people. “This content violates our Community Guidelines, which clearly states that we do not allow content which alters or morphs an image of another individual to portray or imply sexual suggestiveness,” a TikTok spokesperson told Mic via email. Despite the content being in direct violation of TikTok’s community guidelines around sexual harassment, it took four days before the images were taken down.

The TikTok account that originally shared these faked images of Eilish was also synced to an Instagram account that was promoting manipulated, uncensored versions of the same A.I.-generated content for $20 each, according to VICE.

In the report, critics pointed out how TikTok’s current algorithm, which seemingly boosted the Eilish deepfakes, poses a danger for all users. “The TikTok algorithm isn't set up to discern between what kind of content is getting engagement and this is a critical issue,” Hera Hussain, founder and CEO of Chayn, a global nonprofit that works to end gender-based violence, told VICE. “It should not recommend these videos to the feeds of their users. It's not a harmless meme. It's not a still from the singer's own videos. It's a hyper-sexualised A.I.-manipulated image."

To be clear, deepfakes of anyone — whether they’re non-consensual porn (most are) or seemingly benign videos made to look like Jay-Z and Tom Cruisepose serious issues surrounding privacy, harassment, and dangerous misinformation. The Billie Eilish deepfake news is especially heartbreaking, though, given the singer’s complicated relationship with her body, about which she’s spoken candidly.

“I wear clothes that are bigger and easier to move in without showing everything — they can be really unflattering,” she told The Guardian in 2021. "In pictures, they look like, I don't even know what. I just completely separate the two.” She continued, “I have such a terrible relationship with my body like you would not believe, so I just have to disassociate.”

This article has been updated to include comment from a TikTok spokesperson.