The latest trend to take the internet by storm is the ‘Couple Challenge’, where thousands of people from around the world have been sharing photographs with their partners or spouses on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.
But the seemingly innocent social media challenge has prompted law enforcement authorities in India to warn users against sharing their images online after receiving complaints from people whose pictures and personal information were misused by cyber criminals.
Pune Police on Thursday posted a cautionary message on its official Twitter handle, warning social media users to “think twice before you post a picture with your partner.” “A ‘cute’ challenge can go wrong if not cautious! #BeAware,” the tweet read.
As of today, more than 37,000 pictures have been shared under the hashtag ‘Couple Challenge’ on Instagram alone. Using this hashtag, netizens have been celebrating their relationships online by sharing pictures with their spouses and partners.
The challenge also sparked a flurry of memes on social media, with some people using editing software Photoshop to digitally insert themselves into pictures with their favourite celebrities.
Local law enforcement authorities, like the Nagpur Police, have even used the challenge to share memes that promote good practices during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, such as the use of face masks.
— Nagpur City Police (@NagpurPolice) September 26, 2020
— Akash_ (@BarnabasAkash) September 24, 2020
In its recent Twitter post, the Pune police warned users to think twice before sharing their pictures on social media as they may be morphed, edited or used for pornography and other cyber crimes. “Couple Challenge is again trending on social media. Just an awareness these pics may misuse for morphing, revenge porn, deep fake, etc related cyber crime,” the tweet read.
— PUNE POLICE (@PuneCityPolice) September 24, 2020
Police personnel said that they had already received a number of complaints from people who had suffered harassment as their pictures and personal information were misused. Some claimed that their images were morphed and uploaded on “obscene websites” by a few criminal elements.
In a press briefing, Police Inspector Jayram Paigude of the Cyber police station told reporters that people should be cautious before posting their personal information on social media.
Over the years, thousands of people — women in particular — have fallen prey to cybercrime such as deep fakes and revenge porn.
‘Deep fakes’ are computer-generated images and videos made using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Criminals using AI software are now able to easily superimpose a person’s face on to an existing video or photograph.
In March 2018 for instance, a fake video of then-US First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on Reddit. An app called FakeApp was used to superimpose her face onto the video of a pornstar. A similar pornographic video surfaced on the internet in 2017, which featured actor Gal Gadot.
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It is not uncommon for criminals to use fake or edited images to blackmail victims, seek revenge or commit fraud on social networking and dating sites. The act of creating or sharing sexually explicit images or videos on the internet without the subjects consent and as a means of harassing them is known as revenge porn.
Cybercrime officials in India have been tracking apps and websites that have been known to produce nude photographs of innocent people using AI algorithms. These images are often shared by criminals without the person’s consent on pornographic websites.