《TAIPEI TIMES》 Police probe ‘deepfake’ blackmail scam
A person wearing a hood types on a laptop computer as computer code is projected on him in an illustration photograph taken on May 13, 2017. Photo: Reuters
CHECK BEFORE POSTING: People who upload or share deepfake videos or images of presidential candidates could contravene election laws, the MJIB said yesterday
/ Staff writer
A recent spate of blackmail incidents using “deepfake” photographs and videos to extort medical personnel and academics originated in China, the Taipei Police Department said yesterday, while the Ministry of Justice Bureau of Investigation （MJIB） reported an election-focused use of manipulated video.
Male medical personnel at Taipei City Hospital reported to police on July 19 that they had received e-mails containing black-and-white images of them in a bed embracing a woman.
The e-mail warned the recipient to keep a low profile and contact an individual through Line, or a video of them would be released, the police said.
The Taipei Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division said that the Internet protocol addresses associated with the e-mails and the Line chats originated from China and Hong Kong.
The investigation also showed that lecturers at National Tsing Hua University and National Cheng Kung University have also reported receiving similar e-mails threatening to publicize the photographs in March.
The police said they have forwarded the matter to prosecutors’ offices and are also launching a broader investigation into similar incidents.
Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts say the ready availability of candidates’ photos and videos combined with easy access to photo, video and voice-manipulation technology could pose a security risk if groups create and spread false photos and videos online ahead of January’s elections.
Prosecutor-General Hsing Tai-chao （邢泰釗） last week said that the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has instructed district prosecutors’ offices across the nation to establish a task force to handle false information generated using artificial intelligence or deepfake technology.
The Ministry of Justice Bureau of Investigation yesterday said that a video clip recently circulated on social media allegedly featuring Vice President William Lai （賴清德）, the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, was altered with deepfake technology.
In the video, “Lai” says: “I must stress that regardless of the blue or white camps, they are all political parties representing mainstream public opinions.”
The bureau said it is still investigating the issue, adding that spreading or streaming clips, videos or sounds involving presidential candidates that have been altered by deepfake technology contravenes the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act （總統副總統選舉罷免法）.
Members of the public should verify information before they share it online to avoid inadvertently contravening the law, it said.