Yesterday, Twitch streamer Brandon “Atrioc” Ewing issued a tearful apology during his livestream after he accidentally revealed that he had deepfake pornography of popular female Twitch streamers open on his computer. The video of his apology—in which he claims to have clicked an ad on PornHub because he was curious—quickly gained traction online. Twitter users, in a misguided attempt to “draw attention” to the controversy, shared screenshots of the original stream, which signal boosted the porn site and its contents. This made matters worse for the affected women, who learned they were on the deepfake site only because of Ewing’s slip-up.
What’s even worse is that the site Ewing was visiting is a lot like OnlyFans: It requires people to pay a subscription to view its content, and the particular content creator’s page he was on was centered entirely around making deepfakes of famous Twitch streamers—several of whom Ewing is real-life friends with.
Vice has reported that the deepfake creator in question has removed all content from their page and issued an apology. Kotaku will not link to the original site (neither did Vice), but can confirm that the apology is there, in place of any content. In it, the creator claims they stopped making videos and deleted them if a particular streamer ever DMed them. They also wrote that seeing the impact of Ewing’s stream was “eye-opening” for them, which makes me want to put my foot through a wall because, of course, you’d only find issue with grafting famous streamers’ faces onto lewd bodies after Twitter came for you. It’s unclear if this person’s content exists anywhere else on the internet, but it’s not unlikely.
Streamers like QTCinderella and Sweet Anita spoke out against the existence of this deepfake pornography on their respective Twitter accounts yesterday, with QTCinderella expressing the pain she’s facing in the wake of such horrors on a Twitch stream. “It should not be part of my job to have to pay money to get this stuff taken down,” she said, before promising to sue the people behind the deepfakes.
She’s right, she shouldn’t have to pay money to get fake, explicit images of herself taken down, and what’s even more disconcerting is how difficult it is to get deepfake pornography removed from the internet. If the creator in question didn’t pull all of their content down, it’s unclear if any of the victims would be able to use the legal system’s current laws to effectively get it removed themselves. Several years ago, Reddit and PornHub banned deepfake porn, and Discord banned servers selling apps that aided in the creation of it, but smaller sites like the one Ewing was caught on still frequently post such violative pornography with little to no repercussions. That’s because, like so many things surrounding the internet, women’s bodies, and non-consensual porn, the government doesn’t know what the fuck to do about it.
Only California and Virginia have explicit laws surrounding deepfake pornography: AB 602 and HB 2678, respectively. AB 602 allows California residents to sue if their image is used for sexually explicit content, and “seek injunctive relief and recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” But according to Andy I. Chen, a California-based lawyer I spoke with over the phone, it could be difficult for the victim to sue any defendant outside of the state.
Back in 2019 Virginia added an amendment to its revenge porn law that covers “falsely created videographic or still images.” Violation of that law is a class 1 misdemeanor, which could result in “confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and/or a possible fine of not more than $2,500.”
QTCinderella is based in California (as are several other streamers who were reportedly targeted by the deepfake creator), so if she wants to sue the fuck out of them she is within her rights based on state laws. But Sweet Anita lives in the United Kingdom. An Online Safety Bill, which would include protections against both revenge and deepfake porn, is currently making its way through the House of Lords in the UK Parliament. I reached out to QTCinderella, Sweet Anita, and Twitch for comment, but did not receive a response back before publication.
Deepfake pornography is not a new problem, but it’s incredibly disheartening, saddening, and infuriating that it has now bled into the streaming world. Victims can visit C.A. Goldberg Law’s website for information regarding revenge porn laws throughout the United States, or get support by reaching out to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative online or via their 24/7 hotline at 1-844-878-2274.