Stable Diffusion text-to-image tech allegedly used to create child abuse media and victimise a teenager

A man in the U.S. was arrested after allegedly using the text-to-image generator model Stable Diffusion to create child abuse media

Updated - May 22, 2024 12:22 pm IST

Published - May 22, 2024 11:39 am IST

Evidence recovered from Anderegg’s devices revealed that he allegedly generated these images using explicit text prompts [File]

Evidence recovered from Anderegg’s devices revealed that he allegedly generated these images using explicit text prompts [File] | Photo Credit: REUTERS

A man was arrested in the U.S. after he allegedly used the AI text-to-image model Stable Diffusion to create media showing children in adult situations and then used this to target a 15-year-old boy on Instagram.

Steven Anderegg, 42, in the state of Wisconsin was arrested last week, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Per allegations, he created thousands of realistic images of children who were inappropriately dressed, engaging in illegal acts, or being abused by adults.

Evidence from Anderegg’s devices indicated that he generated these images using explicit text prompts, per the release.

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Later on, he established contact with a 15-year-old boy and said he used Stable Diffusion to create the images. He also shared some of the images with the boy through Meta’s photo sharing app Instagram, according to the allegations.

Instagram reported Anderegg’s account to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The NCMEC then sent in a cyber tip to law enforcement.

Stability AI denied being linked to the model that was used to create the images, per Ars Technica. However, it was named in the indictment.

“As alleged, Steven Anderegg used AI to produce thousands of illicit images of prepubescent minors, and even sent sexually explicit AI-generated images to a minor. Today’s announcement sends a clear message: using AI to produce sexually explicit depictions of children is illegal, and the Justice Department will not hesitate to hold accountable those who possess, produce, or distribute AI-generated child sexual abuse material,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Anderegg faces charges related to “producing, distributing, and possessing obscene visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and transferring obscene material to a minor under the age of 16,” noted the DOJ notice.

If convicted of all four counts, he could face 70 years in prison and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.

Anderegg’s hearing is scheduled for May 22.

AI companies have in the past pledged to put in place measures to prevent the creation of abusive and pornographic media, but have not been successful in their efforts.

Stability AI also signed a commitment to adopt ‘Safety by Design’ principles last month, in partnership with Thorn and All Tech Is Human.

“Stability AI, alongside industry leaders such as Amazon, Anthropic, Civitai, Google, Meta, Metaphysic, Microsoft, Mistral AI, and OpenAI, has committed to implementing robust child safety measures in the development, deployment, and maintenance of our generative AI technologies,” said the company on April 23.

Experts have warned that even the data training sets used to train AI models could enable the creation of child abuse media.

While most regulated text-to-image generators block abusive, mature, or criminal text prompts, malicious users know ways to evade these controls or use additional tools to create illegal images.

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