Manipulation of Cambodia torture victims' photos draws backlash

Occurred: May 2021

Manipulated photographs of Cambodian prisoners tortured by the Khmer Rouge led to a heated public backlash about the ethics of photographic touching-up using artificial intelligence. 

Irish artist Matt Loughrey had colourised black and white photographs of victims tortured by the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 prison, and jovialised them by adding smiles.

Published alongside an interview with Loughrey in Vice, the photographs resulted in complaints by victims' families and Cambodian authorities about loss of dignity, accusations of historical revisionism, copyright infringement, and a debate on the ethics of photographic manipulation.

Vice subsequently deleted the article and apologised, pointing out that the photographs had been 'manipulated beyond colourisation'. Loughrey had not mentioned adding smiles to the photographs.

System 🤖

Documents 📃

Operator: Matt Loughrey; Vice News
Country: Rep. Ireland
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Colourise photographs
Technology: AI colourisation
Issue: Copyright; Mis/disinformation; Ethics
Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Research, advocacy 🧮

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: December 2021
Last updated: January 2024