Police say an eastern Pennsylvania mother went to great lengths to harass three underage girls on her daughter’s cheer squad in order to get them booted from the team. Fifty-year-old Raffaela Marie Spone spent two months making deepfake nude videos and photos of the girls, which she then sent to the squad coach.
Deepfake is AI-based technology that allows users to swap one person’s face for another in videos and photographs to make fake media. Perhaps the most famous deepfake video shows Tom Cruise (but not really Tom Cruise) doing magic. In another, made by film director Jordan Peele, a fake President Obama delivers a PSA about the threat of fake news.
According to The Washington Post, Spone created deepfake images that “appeared to show the teen girls in humiliating or compromising situations that could get them kicked off the team.” In the videos and photos, the underage girls appeared to be nude, drinking alcohol, vaping and using drugs.
Spone also allegedly sent anonymous texts and made anonymous phone calls to the three cheerleaders. Spone told one girl “you should kill yourself.”
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub told The Washington Post that Spone has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of cyber harassment of a child and related offenses. He said Spone could face six months to a year in prison, but it’s unlikely she’ll do the maximum. The reason? The fake nudes did not include genitalia.
Weintraub, who said the videos were an attempt to “slut shame” the girls, explained that the nude pictures were digitally altered so that the bikinis were removed and replaced with skin-toned bars. Had the genitalia been visible, Weintraub pointed out, Spone would have been charged “with a much more serious felony offense.”
The motivation behind Spone’s crimes is still unclear. It appears that she wanted the three girls to be kicked off the squad, but why? Unfortunately, Spone’s own daughter has no idea.
“The daughter is completely blameless in this,” Weintraub said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to the father of one of Spone’s victims, who said that his daughter and Spone’s daughter used to be friends. The father said that his wife decided the two girls should stop seeing each other, and he thinks that’s when Spone’s harassment started.
“It’s disturbing to me,” said Weintraub. “Because we rely on being able to authenticate evidence as a foundation of the criminal justice system. “If everyday people are capable of using deepfakes, that’s going to make doing our job a lot more difficult.”