First use of Deepfake to intimidate opponents

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The New York Times reports that three Bucks County cheerleaders have been targeted using altered images and videos. It was revealed that Raffaela Marie Spone anonymously sent fake photos and videos to her daughter’s trainers, incriminating rivals in her cheerleading group. Spone tried not only to compromise her daughter’s rivals, but also to force them to leave the team. In the fake photos and videos, the teens were naked, drinking or smoking.

Today there are several public solutions for creating photo and video fakes that anyone can use.

Raffaela Marie Spone was arrested in early March on charges of cyber harassment of children. She was released from custody on the condition that she appears on March 30 for a preliminary hearing. More details are not yet available, as attempts to contact her by phone or email have been unsuccessful.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Spone last year created fake images of at least three Victory Vipers from a support group based in Doylestown. The article refers to court records, which do not indicate that Spone’s daughter, who was not publicly identified, knew what her mother was up to.

After analyzing the videos, detectives determined that they were “deepfakes” – realistic-looking digital images created by using photos of girls from social networks and other images.

“This technology is not only widespread, but also easy to use. This is something that your neighbor on the street can use, and it is very scary.”


Police said they entered Spone’s home with a search warrant on December 18 last year and seized several devices, including mobile phones. After examining the information on the devices, experts found that six messages on one of the mobile phones coincided with the dates of receiving messages on the victims’ devices.

Police officers said there were several search warrants throughout the year to determine the source of the text messages. Investigators demanded that ISPs disclose the IP addresses associated with various phone numbers that led to Ms Spoane’s residence. Methods for determining that photo and video materials are fake – nothing is reported, although solutions for such verification are being developed.

Gym coaches and owners Mark McTag and Kelly Kramer lamented the harassment campaign but declined to comment: “Victory Vipers have always contributed to creating a family atmosphere and we regret everyone involved. We have an established and very strict anti-bullying policy in our program”.

Oleg Kivokurtsev, founder and development director of the Promobot company, spoke about how you can visually identify a fake video.

“There is not a single deepfake today that accurately follows the movements of a person. And, if you look closely, you can notice certain inaccuracies when the eyes look in one direction, while the head moves to the other. The second way to recognize a deepfake is by resolution. Only deepfakes are widely available and are saved at 480p. If the video is in such a low resolution, then it is most likely a deepfake. Only professional studios have the ability to save videos in high definition. At the common level, that is, if the resolution is 480p, this means that it is most likely a deepfake. You also need to look carefully at the video, the environment of the deepfake, namely, when unauthorized persons are imposed, the background can change, the doorframe can change its geometry, that is, it can become wavy, the reflection can change. These are three simple ways to distinguish a deepfake from a real video”

Our assessment of the situation

It is impossible to describe what these girls had to endure in any words. Unfortunately, behind all the publications and analysis of this situation, they forgot about the children and their parents. They will have to live with this nightmare for a long time.

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