A mother in Pennsylvania faces multiple charges of harassment following an incident in which she allegedly created deepfakes of members of her daughter’s cheerleading team in a bid to get them kicked off of the team.
The mother, one Raffaela Spone, reportedly created deepfake images of the Victory Vipers cheerleading team drinking, smoking and in compromising positions. Spone then allegedly sent these images along to the team coach.
Not content with creating deepfakes, Spone then allegedly send abusive messages to the team members, their parents and the owners of the cheerleading gym. Some of the messages reportedly urged the team members to kill themselves, reports ABC News.
You might be asking why the mother did this and we did as well. It seems Spone was trying to get the members kicked off of the team, according to 6ABC Action News. Seems like an extreme measure to us but we’re not the mom of a cheerleader so what do we know.
Following receipt of the aforementioned abusive messages, one of the victim’s parents contacted police. It was then discovered that the numbers being used to send the messages from, were acquired from a service used by telemarketers.
This gave investigators an IP address which eventually lead them to Spone’s home.
The mother now faces three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment. According to reports, Spone’s daughter allegedly had no knowledge of what her mother was doing.
What is concerning is that deepfakes were used and not by a nation-state or cybercriminals but a mother trying to get kids kicked off of a cheerleading team.
Have we finally reached a point where this scary technology is so accessible that a suburban mom with a petty grudge can ruin a person’s life? We should point out that it wasn’t the deepfakes that got her caught but rather the text messages she sent to harass folks.
While we haven’t seen the deepfake images, one victim told 6ABC “I just knew it wasn’t real because I don’t do that,” after seeing a video of her vaping. Now, deepfake video has telltale signs but if the victim is commenting that they knew it was fake because they don’t vape we have to wonder how convincing the video is.
Meanwhile, Spone’s attorney has said his client denies the charges.
“She has absolutely denied what they’re charging her with and because of the fact that this has hit the press, she has received death threats. She has had to go to the police herself, they have a report. Her life has been turned upside down,” Robert Birch, attorney for Spone, told the press.
If Spone is indeed responsible for these deepfakes and harassment we’d be curious to see how that trial plays out.
For now, we guess we need to start treating everything with a lot more suspicion because clearly deepfakes have hit the mainstream if they’re being used to harass cheerleaders in what honestly seems like a petty squabble.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]