Deepfake creators sell nonconsensual video on ‘hidden’ websites that take Visa and Mastercard  (2024)

Fake sexually explicit videos of celebrity women from around the world are still being bought and using Mastercard and Visa credit cards, even though the credit card companies have said the transactions are not allowed.

Fan-Topia, the largest subscription website for nonconsensual sexually explicit deepfakes of celebrities, advertises the ability for subscribers to pay creators for the material with Visa and Mastercard credit cards or cryptocurrency. After the site appeared to shut down major accounts on the platform following a March 2023 NBC News article, deepfake accounts have returned to Fan-Topia using “hidden links.”

The new system hides much of the deepfake content and creators from public view, while facilitating payments for the material.

Deepfakes typically refer to misleading digital media created with artificial intelligence tools, like AI models and applications that allow users to “face-swap” a target’s face with one in a p*rnographic video. Deepfake videos overwhelmingly feature women and girls in nonconsensual sexually explicit material. While many of the victims are public figures, deepfakes have also been used to victimize girls in schools worldwide. More sexually explicit deepfake videos were uploaded to the internet in 2023 than any other year, according to data collected by independent researcher Genevieve Oh.

An NBC News search of MrDeepFakes, the most popular free streaming website for sexually explicit deepfakes of celebrities, found that at least 18 top creators are promoting “hidden links” to Fan-Topia pages where they sell longer versions of their content. Ten of the creators using the “hidden links” uploaded teasers on the free website within the past 24 hours.

The deepfakes uploaded in the past 24 hours feature women like K-Pop stars, Hollywood and Bollywood actresses, and even political figures —one of them targeted Ivanka Trump, the daughter of former president Donald Trump, whose face is featured in MrDeepFakes’ logo.

The “hidden links” system, called “hidemylink.vip,” hides the deepfakes from public view and serves as a $5 paywall between the creator’s profile on the free website and their subscription page on Fan-Topia, which carries an additional subscription fee determined by the creator. On Fan-Topia, users can add money to a wallet, then use it to subscribe to creators. The deepfake creators are not searchable on Fan-Topia and their profile links are constantly changing, but the “hidemylink” service allows subscribers to return to creators’ pages they previously subscribed to at any time, including before April 2023. Searching for the deepfake creators’ Fan-Topia pages on Google also doesn’t surface them. Once someone creates an account on “hidemylink,” it stores links to creators who have already been subscribed to.

NBC News was able to use a Visa credit card on “hidemylink,” but the card was not immediately charged. “Hidemylink” doesn’t specify which cards it accepts. The deepfake creator’s profile that NBC News viewed charged $15 a month on Fan-Topia for access to over 900 posts.

Visa CEO and chairman Al Kelly said in an August 2022 statement that Visa’s rules “explicitly and unequivocally prohibit the use of our products to pay for content that depicts nonconsensual sexual behavior.” Mastercard also prohibits its products being used to purchase content depicting nonconsensual sexual activity. Visa and Mastercard did not previously respond to questions about Fan-Topia, and did not immediately respond to another request for comment.

Fan-Topia is operated by a limited company called OSOMR Ltd., registered in the U.K., that was incorporated in 2021. Fan-Topia’s terms of service lists the name of the company and its address in London. “Hidemylink.vip” does not contain information about its ownership on its website, but it has a Google Maps listing at the same address as OSOMR Ltd. The “hidemylink” service appears to have been running for about 11 months, starting around five months after the first Fan-Topia shutdown after the NBC News article.

The development of “hidemylink” has allowed at least 15 major deepfake creators to return to Fan-Topia.

One creator’s bio on the free website said, “My page has finally been reopened. New subscribers will receive one free request each for the month of August as I get things back up and running.”

Some other creators appeared to stop making deepfakes in response to the shutdown. The creator of the most viewed deepfake on the free website, who last posted from their account in April 2023, wrote, “As some of you know my discord server and everyones fantopia has been banned. I don’t know how much longer I will be making deepfakes.”

Deepfake criminalization

Deepfake creators are using “hidemylink” as scrutiny of their content has rapidly intensified.

In April, the U.K. government announced that it was criminalizing the creation of deepfakes and would prosecute deepfake creators, sparking MrDeepFakes and another deepfake website to block access from the country.

But Fan-Topia, a company registered in the U.K., has continued to operate.

Deepfake creators have suggested that the “hidemylink” service offers them a new level of security and protection.

“The official regulations require a hidden link,” one creator wrote on their profile on the website “All My Links,” which allows users to list all their social media profile links in one place.

Another deepfake creator using “hidemylink” wrote in their bio on MrDeepFakes, “For security reasons, the links will be changed often.”

Similar legislation penalizing nonconsensual sexually explicit deepfakes in the U.S. has not passed, although multiple senators and representatives have introduced bills that would address the issue.

Some think that regardless of the measures, they may still be pushed into darker corners of the internet.

One of the most prolific deepfake creators who also serves as a moderator on the MrDeepFake’s forums suggested that fans reach out with their usernames on Discord or Telegram, or an email address they use, “should anything bad happen to any site I operate on.”

“Like my videos? Then consider supporting me by subscribing,” the creator wrote in their bio on MrDeepFakes. “I currently fake around 80 celebs but have done a lot more in my faking history, more than 100 in fact (not including various commissions I’ve done over the years). New celebs (at least one) are being added each month.”

Kat Tenbarge

Kat Tenbarge is a tech and culture reporter for NBC News Digital. She can be reached at Kat.Tenbarge@nbcuni.com

Deepfake creators sell nonconsensual video on ‘hidden’ websites that take Visa and Mastercard  (2024)
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