Pennslyvania woman allegedly frames daughter's rivals using deepfakes

Occurred: March 2021

A Pennslyvania woman was arrested for allegedly framing her teenage daughter's cheerleading rivals by creating 'deepfake' photos and videos of them naked, drinking, and smoking. 

According to her prosecutors, Raffaela Spone, 50, aimed to humiliate her daughter's friends and force them from their team - the Victory Vipers. She was charged with cyber harrassment of a child and related offences.

One of the alleged 'deepfakes' was a video showing one of the girls vaping - which violated the rules of her cheer squad - and another showed a girl without clothes in a public space. One of the messages she is meant to have sent along with a doctored image urged one of the girls 'kill herself'.

However, synthetic media experts such as Henry Ajder expressed their doubts that the video had been deepfaked and, during preliminary court proceedings, District Attorney Matt Weintraub revealed that the police did not have definitive proof that Spone had created the images, or that they were manipulated at all. 

Two months later, the deepfake charges against Spone were dropped, though she continued to be charged with harrassment. Spone was found guilty of three counts of misdemeanour harassment in March 2022, and received three years' probation.

A September 2021 Cosmopolitan investigation concluded the videos were likely to be real, and that the viral scandal that emerged from the case was the result of incompetent police work.

System 🤖

Operator: Unclear/unknown
Developer: Unclear/unknown
Country: USA
Sector: Education; Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Damage reputation
Technology: Deepfake - image; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Mis/disinformation; Privacy; Ethics
Transparency: Governance; Privacy

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023