Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Another Body

Directors – Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn – 2023 – UK, US – Cert. 18 – 80m


A young woman discovers her face has been added by deepfake technology into porn videos, and attempts to find out the perpetrator – documentary is out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 24th

The opening five minutes show a normal, well-adjusted, young woman. Taylor Klein comes from a family of engineers, with a mother who is the hardest working person she knows, an attribute that always encouraged Taylor to work hard to become a success. So she went to a college called C-net to study engineering. She was one of two female students out of a group of around fifty. And that was fine. Or so it seemed at the time.

Some time after successfully completing her course, a friend sent her a social media message. Her first reaction has that he had been hacked – but no, he assured her, it was definitely him. And she needed to look at the link he had sent her. When she did so, her world collapsed. Because she found herself watching porn videos on PornHub starring herself. Seven in total, and one more on another site called xHamster. Only, she’d never made any porn videos. Someone had taken her face and attached it to someone else’s body using deepfake technology. Seeing these videos online was the first she knew about them.

She tries to ignore it that evening hanging out with gaming friends online and cracking the odd joke (“no-one thought I was going to be a porn star”) but settling down to sleep, alone with her thoughts, the full weight of what has happened hits her. Online, alongside the videos, are her name, the name of her college, the name of her town. She starts getting messages about, “I will come over to your house and fuck you” from people she’s never met, and while many of these messages may be mere bravado, you never really know, and she’s terrified.

We hear her talking to the police, but they can’t do anything unless a crime has been committed, and they are unable to see one, at least so long as any perpetrator is hidden behind an anonymous alias online, and using a VPN (virtual private network) to conceal their computer’s identity and whereabouts on the web.

She talks to a lawyer who specialises in helping deep fake porn victims, and learns that at the present time, there is no US law on deepfake; indeed, a law called Section 230 protects perpetrators. So the best way to legally approach it is via another avenue, e.g. non-consensuality.

In agreeing to take part in this documentary, ‘Taylor’ didn’t want to use her real name, or her real face; what we watch is a deepfake using an actress’ face, just as the name of her, her school and her location here are also fake, so that she is protected. Until the fact is mentioned, I had no idea, which goes to show just how convincing deepfaking is.

After much researching this area of the internet and delving into her college yearbook, she identifies the perp as an old boyfriend but is unable to legally prove that it’s him (unless he made a mistake such as failing to employ a VPN on one occasion, which he didn’t). She also identifies other victims, among them the other female student from her year and a social media influencer with 4.5 million followers online.

The latter uses her status to talk about the issue and encourage a public debate. ‘Taylor’ herself is invited to give a testimony about her experience at a conference on deepfake at the White House, so some good comes of the whole thing. But she would, I’m sure, had rather it had never happened in the first place.

In terms of its content, this documentary is both cutting edge and explosive – absolutely essential viewing for anyone living in the contemporary world. There’s lots of money to be made in porn, so it’s an area which attracts technological innovation in the hope of boosting profits – which is not always in the best interests of anyone other than those making money.

We’re in at the start of something very unpleasant here of which everyone needs to be aware so that the issue can be talked about, legislated for and dealt with effectively. The documentary is clearly articulating the situation in the US, and therefore dealing with US law; while other countries’ legal frameworks may differ, the problem is global and unlikely to go away any time soon. This timely study is therefore a must-see.

In conjunction with the film comes the impact campaign #MyImageMyChoice, should you wish to find out more.

Another Body is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, November 24th.


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