María Blanco Rayo’s daughter is one of the adolescents affected.
A quiet town in southern Spain was left shaken after AI-generated images of naked local girls and young women emerged and circulated on social media without their knowledge.
The images were created using photos of said girls fully dressed, many of them taken from their own profiles on the networks.
They were then processed through an application that generates an imagined visualization of what the person would look like without clothes.
So far more than 20 girls and adolescents, between 11 and 17 years old, have reported that they were victims of the application in Almendralejo and its surroundings, in the southwestern province of Bajadoz.
“One day my daughter left school saying ‘Mom, photos of me with my bare chest are circulating,’” says María Blanco Rayo, the mother of a 14-year-old girl.
“I asked her if she had taken nude photos of herself and she said, ‘No, mom, these are fake photos of girls that are being created by the dozen and there are other girls in my class that have happened to them too.’”
The interviewee said that the parents of 28 affected girls have formed a support group in the town.
image copyrightGetty Images
The Spanish authorities have launched an investigation into the case.
Police are now reportedly investigating 11 local youths who have been identified as being involved in either creating the images or circulating them through the WhatsApp and Telegram apps.
Investigators are also looking into a report of an attempted extortion of a girl using fake photos of her.
The impact that the circulation of images has had on girls varies. Mrs. Blanco Rayo says that her daughter is coping well, but that some girls “are not even leaving their houses.”
Almendralejo is a picturesque town with a population of just over 30,000 inhabitants, known for its production of olives and red wine. But he is not used to being the focus of the attention that the case has caused them, turning the town into national news headlines.
That’s largely due to the efforts of one of the girls’ mothers, Miriam Al Adib. She is a gynecologist who has already used her prominent profile on social networks to bring the issue to the center of the Spanish public debate.
Dr. Miriam Al Adib posted a video to send a message to girls: “It’s not your fault.”
Although many of the AI images are believed to have been generated over the summer, the case only came to light in recent days, after Dr Adib posted a video reassuring the parents of the affected girls.
“We didn’t know how many images there were of the girls, whether they had been uploaded to pornographic sites; We had all those fears,” she says.
“When you are a victim of a crime, if you are robbed, for example, you file a report and do not hide because another person has hurt you. But with crimes of a sexual nature, the victim often feels ashamed and hides and feels responsible. So she wanted to send the message: it’s not your fault.”
The suspects in this case range in age from 12 to 14.
Spanish law does not specifically contemplate the generation of images of a sexual nature when it comes to adults, although the creation of this material with minors can be considered child pornography.
Another possible charge could be for violating privacy laws. In Spain, minors only face criminal charges from the age of 14.
The case has caused anguish even among people who are not involved.
“Those of us who have children are very worried,” says Gema Lorenzo, a local who has a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.
“You worry about two things: if you have a child, you worry that they might be involved in something like this; “If you have a daughter, you worry even more, because it is an act of violence.”
Almendralejo is a picturesque town of just over 30,000 people in southwestern Spain.
Francisco Javier Guerra, a local painter and decorator, says the parents of the young people involved are to blame. “They should have done something sooner, like take away their phones, or install an app that tells them what their kids are doing with their phones.”
This is not the first time that a case like this has dominated the news in Spain. At the beginning of the year, AI-generated images of the singer Rosalía with her bare chest were published on social networks.
“Right now it is happening all over the world. The only difference is that in Almendralejo we have made a scandal about this.”
The concern is that applications like those used in Almendralejo are becoming more and more common.
Javier Izquierdo, director of Child Protection for the national police cybercrime unit, told Spanish media that these types of crimes are no longer limited” to the type who downloads child pornography from the Dark Web or some furtive online forum.
And he added: “Obviously that is still happening, but the new challenge we have now is the access that minors have [a esta tecnología] at such a young age, as in this case.”
Now you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.