AI-generated images of dozens of young girls from the small Spanish town of Almendralejo have started circulating on social media, causing outrage, according to local media reports.
The case is a legal conundrum for the Spanish police, which have opened investigations into the matter. The victims are all aged between 11 and 17. Yet, the suspects are boys between the ages of 12 and 14, below the legal age for criminal prosecution.
AI undresses underage girls
According to a BBC report, the naked child pictures were made using a type of generative AI tool that is able to undress people who are fully clothed in still images. The photos of the girls targeted in this attack were taken from their social media profiles.
More than 20 girls, aged between 11 and 17, have so far revealed they were victims of the AI manipulation in Almendralejo, a town of around 34,000 people in the south-western Spanish province of Badajoz. The town is better known for its production of olives and red wine.
“One day my daughter came out of school and she said, ‘Mum, there are photos circulating of me topless’” said María Blanco Rayo, the mother of a 14-year-old.
“I asked her if she had taken any photos of herself nude, and she said, ‘No, Mum, these are fake photos of girls that are being created a lot right now, and there are other girls in my class that this has happened to as well,’” she added, as per the BBC report.
Spanish media say nearly 30 parents of the affected girls have formed a support group in the town to lobby authorities. The group is led by an eminent local gynecologist, Miriam Al Adib, who has leveraged her large social media presence to draw national attention to the abuse.
Al Adib, who had AI-generated naked pictures of her two teenage daughters published online, reportedly posted a video on social media denouncing this “barbaric” act.
“It’s so realistic that the first thing I thought when I saw it was ‘what have you done’?” she told a local paper. “The image is super realistic, and, in addition to going viral among them [the pepertrators], they may have been uploaded to ‘OnlyFans’ type internet sites.”
Police in Spain have started investigating the case after receiving multiple complaints about the nude AI child images, according to the local radio station Cope.
They identified 11 boys, all aged between 12 and 14, suspected of creating the naked images using mobile AI apps or circulating them on WhatsApp and Telegram. Police are also looking into reports that one of the girls may have been extorted using a fake nude photo of her.
The boys will likely be charged with violating privacy laws, the BBC reports. Child porn is also punishable in the country. However, the case poses complex legal questions in so far as minors under the age of 14 cannot be held criminally liable under existing Spanish law.
Javier Izquierdo, head of children’s protection in the national police’s cybercrime unit, told Spanish media that “the new challenges we are facing are the access that minors have at such an early age [to such technology], such as in this case.”
Affected girls have reacted differently to the publication of their nude photos online. Blanco Rayo, the mother of one victim, said her daughter is holding up well, but that some girls “won’t even leave their house”.
Al Adib, the gynecologist, said that it is important for the girls “not to be afraid to report such acts” and to tell their parents.
“We didn’t know how many children had the images; if they had been uploaded to pornographic sites, we had all those fears,” she explained.
“When you are the victim of a crime, if you are robbed, for example, you file a complaint, and you don’t hide because the other person has caused you harm. But with crimes of a sexual nature, the victim often feels shame, hides, and feels responsible. So I wanted to give that message: it’s not your fault.”
This is not the first time that AI has been used to create fake nude images in Spain. Earlier this year, topless pictures of singer Rosalia were created using AI and circulated on social media.