The internet is a growing battlefield by which activists and bad actors set out to destroy the careers of others. This latest example involves the emerging world of deepfakes.
Police in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, arrested a 50-year-old woman for sending doctored images and videos of members of her teen daughter’s cheerleading squad to coaches, hoping they would get kicked out.
The investigation started last July after one of the cheerleaders’ parents contacted the police. Later, two more families reported a similar story. The teenagers claimed that they and their coaches had received messages showing them naked, smoking, and drinking, reported the Philly Inquirer.
Upon further investigation, the police determined that the videos were deepfakes. The police then traced the text messages to Raffaela Spone, a parent of one of the teenagers in the cheerleading squad.
The District Attorney of Bucks County said that Spone anonymously sent the teenagers “manipulated images” and encouraged them to commit suicide.
She is being charged with three counts of harassment, three counts of cyber harassment, and two misdemeanors. She was released on condition that she appears in court for a preliminary hearing on March 30.
One of the harassed teenagers’ parents, George Ratel, speaking to the Philly Inquirer, believes “the harassment was triggered after he and his wife told his daughter to stop hanging out with Spone’s daughter, due to concerns over the girl’s behavior.”
“I don’t know what would push her to this point,” Ratel added. “As a dad I was pretty upset about it. It’s an image put out there of my daughter that is simply not true.”