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Sex, lies and politics

色情、谎言与政治

Women in public life are increasingly subject to sexual slander. Don’t believe it

女性在公众事务中日益遭受性诽谤,别信以为真

As deepfake technology spreads, expect more bogus sex tapes of female politicians

随着深度伪造技术的泛滥,伪造的女性政客色情视频可能增多



Adulterer, pervert, traitor, murderer. In France in 1793, no woman was more relentlessly slandered than Marie Antoinette. Political pamphlets spread baseless rumours of her depravity. Some drawings showed her with multiple lovers, male and female. Others portrayed her as a harpy, a notoriously disagreeable mythical beast that was half bird-of-prey, half woman. Such mudslinging served a political purpose. The revolutionaries who had overthrown the monarchy wanted to tarnish the former queen’s reputation before they cut off her head.



Consider the case of Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist who tirelessly reports on corruption, and who wrote a book about the massacre of Muslims in the state of Gujarat when Narendra Modi, now India’s prime minister, was in charge there. For years, critics muttered that she was unpatriotic (because she is a Muslim who criticises the ruling party) and a prostitute (because she is a woman). In April 2018 the abuse intensified. A deepfake sex video, which grafted her face over that of another woman, was published and went viral. Digital mobs threatened to rape or kill her. She was “doxxed”: someone published her home address and phone number online. It is hard to prove who was behind this campaign of intimidation, but its purpose is obvious: to silence her, and any other woman thinking of criticising the mighty.

想想印度记者拉娜·艾尤布,她坚持不懈地报道腐败,还写过一本关于古吉拉特邦大屠杀的书,当年该邦的负责人是现任印度总理纳伦德拉·莫迪。多年来,批评人士埋怨这名记者不爱国,还说她是妓女(因为她是女性)。2018年4月,谩骂变本加厉。一段深度伪造的色情视频被公开后疯传,该视频将她与另一个女人的脸移花接木。网络暴民威胁要强奸或杀了她。她被“人肉搜索”了:有人在网上公开了她的家庭住址和电话号码。谁指使了这场恐吓行动很难证实,但目的很明确:让她及任何想要批评权贵的女性闭嘴。

Similar tactics are used to deter women from running for public office. In the run-up to elections in Iraq last year, two female candidates were humiliated with explicit videos, which they say were faked. One pulled out of the race. The types of image used to degrade women vary from place to place. In Myanmar, where antipathy towards Muslims is widespread, detractors of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, circulated a photo manipulated to show her wearing a hijab. By contrast in Iran, an Islamist theocracy, a woman was disqualified from taking the seat she had won when a photo, which she claims is doctored, leaked showing her without one.

类似的策略也被用于阻挠女性竞选公职。去年在伊拉克选举前的准备阶段,两名女性候选人遭受露骨视频的羞辱,她们说这些视频是伪造的,其中一人退出了选举。各地侮辱女性所用的照片类型各不相同。在缅甸,人们普遍厌恶,实权领袖昂山素季的诋毁者散布了一张伪造的照片,显示她戴着头巾。而在伊朗这个伊斯兰神权政治国家,一名女性被取消了她赢得的任职资格,因为一张泄露的照片显示她没有戴头巾,她说照片是伪造的。

High-tech sexual slander has not replaced the old-fashioned sort, which remains rife wherever politicians and their propagandists can get away with it. In Russia, female dissidents are dubbed sexual deviants in pro-Kremlin media. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has joked about showing a pornographic video of a female opponent, which she says is a fake, to the pope. In China, mainland-based trolls have spread lewd quotes falsely attributed to Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female president. Beijing’s state media say she is “extreme” and “emotional” as a result of being unmarried and childless.

高科技性诽谤并没有取代传统性诽谤,它仍然盛行于政客及其宣传者逍遥法外的地方。俄罗斯的女性异见人士被支持政府的媒体称为性变态。菲律宾的罗德里戈·杜特尔特总统开玩笑地向教皇展示一名女性反对者的色情视频,她本人说视频是伪造的。中国大陆的网络喷子将色情语录移花接木给台湾第一位女总统蔡英文,北京的国家媒体说她未婚无子造成了“极端”和“情绪化”。

Stamping out the problem altogether will be impossible. Anyone can make a deepfake sex video, or hire someone to do it, for a pittance, and then distribute it anonymously. Politicians will inevitably be targets. Laws against libel or invasion of privacy may deter some abuses, but they are not much use when the perpetrator is unknown. Reputable tech firms will no doubt try to remove the most egregious content, but there will always be other platforms, some of them hosted by regimes that actively sow disinformation in the West.

彻底杜绝这个问题是不可能的。人人都能制作深度伪造的色情视频,或者以蝇头小利雇人这么做,然后匿名散布。政客会不可避免地成为目标,反诽谤或侵犯隐私的法律可以杜绝一部分侮辱,但对不明身份的犯罪者没多大用处。声誉良好的科技公司必然设法删除最恶劣的内容,但总会有其他平台,有些平台的服务器来自热衷于在西方国家造谣的政权。

So the best defence against sexual lies is scepticism. People should assume that videos showing female politicians naked or having sex are probably bogus. Journalists should try harder to expose the peddlers of fake footage, rather than mindlessly lixing to it. Some day, one hopes, voters may even decide that it is none of their business what public figures look like under their clothes, or which consenting adults they sleep with.

因此,防范色情谣言的最佳手段是怀疑态度。人们应该设想展现女性政客裸体或性爱的视频很可能是假的。记者应加大力度曝光假视频的传播者,而不是盲目地受其牵连。我们希望有朝一日,选民甚至可能不在乎公众人物裸体的样子,或者与哪些同意发生性行为的成年人上床。