Deepfake Case: TV Host Welmoed Sijtsma’s Fight Against Digital Deception

Deepfake Case: TV Host Welmoed Sijtsma’s Fight Against Digital Deception. In a precedent-setting case, the Amsterdam court recently ruled on a disconcerting issue concerning the misuse of deepfake technology. The case revolved around TV journalist and presenter Welmoed Sijtsma, who became the unsuspecting victim of an egregious misuse of the deepfake phenomenon.

A man, aged 39 from Amersfoort, was handed a conditional community service sentence of 180 hours for crafting and disseminating a pornographic deepfake video featuring Sijtsma. Leveraging advanced digital technologies, the individual had morphed Sijtsma’s face onto the figure of a porn actress, creating a scene that portrayed her engaged in an explicit act.

This disturbing act was universally criticized, with the court condemning the video as a severe violation of the victim’s “sexual autonomy and privacy.” Such content, described by the judiciary as “shocking and distasteful,” underscores the dangers posed by the misuse of deepfake technology.

Welmoed Sijtsma first became aware of this counterfeit video when it began circulating online in 2022. Displaying commendable courage, she responded by producing a four-part docuseries named “Welmoed and the Sex Fakes” for WNL on NPO3.

Welmoed and the Sex Fakes / Still frame / Deepfake Welmoed
Welmoed and the Sex Fakes / Still frame / Deepfake Welmoed

In the series, with the assistance of an IT expert, Sijtsma went on a quest to unmask the individual responsible for the video, eventually identifying the man known as K.

Although the Public Prosecution Service recommended a 120-hour community service combined with a two-month conditional prison term, the court deemed a heftier prison term apt. However, they reconsidered this stance upon learning of K.’s proactive decision to commence behavioral treatment on his own.

An interesting aspect of this trial was the defense’s contention. The lawyer representing the accused contended that the deepfake’s creation wasn’t criminal under Article 139h of the Criminal Code, often associated with revenge porn. The court, however, disagreed, stating that deepfakes could indeed be classified under this article if they appear sufficiently realistic to be mistaken as genuine by the general public.

In this digital age, as technology continues to evolve rapidly, this case surrounding the deepfake of Welmoed Sijtsma shines a light on the urgent need to address the potential harm and threats posed by technological advancements. While the tools of the digital realm can be awe-inspiring, it’s essential to use them responsibly and ethically.