A South Korean man has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for using artificial intelligence (AI) to create exploitative images of children. This is the first case of its kind in South Korea, highlighting the challenges faced by courts worldwide in dealing with new technologies and their role in producing abusive sexual content.
The man, who remains unnamed and is in his 40s, generated approximately 360 AI-generated images in April. The images were not distributed and have been confiscated by the police. Prosecutors argued that sexually exploitative material should encompass descriptions of sexual behaviors by "virtual humans," not just the appearance of real children.
The ruling signifies that sexually abusive content can include imagery created using "high level" technology that closely resembles real children and minors. Governments globally are grappling with the regulation of AI, as its impact extends to areas such as copyright, intellectual property, national security, personal privacy, and explicit content. Cases like this South Korean sentencing emphasize how AI can be used to violate people's bodily autonomy and safety, particularly for women and minors.
This incident follows a recent investigation in Spain, where AI was used to alter images of underage girls by removing their clothing. The manipulated images were then circulated. Deepfakes, which are highly convincing fake videos created using AI, have also been used for years to insert women's faces into pornographic videos without their consent.
The issue gained widespread attention earlier this year when it was revealed that a prominent male video game streamer had accessed deepfake videos of his female streaming colleagues. Platforms such as Twitch and TikTok have responded to these concerns by updating their policies and implementing stricter rules regarding AI deepfakes.
Regulation of AI usage has been initiated by the European Union and China, while the United States is also considering legislation on the matter. The case in South Korea underscores the urgent need for regulations to address the potential misuse of AI technology.