Artificial Intelligence Against Gender-Based Violence. Interview with Laura Frombach and Joy Farrow.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing at a rapid pace and it's transforming the way we approach various aspects of life. AI now plays a significant role in the topic of gender-based violence, working as both a tool to support women suffering from domestic abuse, and unfortunately, a weapon to impart violence and harassment against women. Technologist, engineer, and domestic violence survivor, Laura Frombach and Former Deputy Sheriff, Joy Farrow, co-authors of Street Smart Safety for Women, shared with us everything you need to know about AI's role in gender-based violence, from emerging threats and risks to resources that fight against domestic abuse and human trafficking.
Q: How is AI being utilized for gendered violence? Are there any emerging risks or technologies that young women should be informed of?
A: The latest form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is new and different from what we've previously considered AI. "Traditional" AI processed and analyzed data, and then predicted results based on that analysis. But the emerging type of AI that started heating up our consciousness in 2023 is different from that. This latest technology is called "Generative AI" because it provides a powerful capability: the ability to generate entirely new (and realistic) content based on natural language input.
In other words, Generative AI understands human input to generate a wide range of output, including text, images, videos, voices, music and more. You don't have to understand machine language or coding to get incredibly realistic results, indistinguishable from what humans have considered reality to be. You just tell it what you want, maybe provide a small sample and Generative AI will produce something that has never existed before. It's easy to use, free, and incredibly powerful - both for good and for destruction.
This ability to quickly and easily produce realistic results based only on human input and a small sample is what makes Generative AI so dangerous regarding gendered violence.
- Deepfakes and manipulated media: Highly convincing videos or images that depict things that do not exist or never happened. Generative AI creates manipulated media in seconds. Often targeting women, it can superimpose a woman's face on an AI-produced body, depicting the subject in pornographic ways or in compromising situations. This content is used for attempted blackmail, harassment or to damage reputations. Created in seconds, it can also be distributed online just as quickly.
- Cyberstalking and harassment: The ability of Generative AI to easily create realistic content such as voice imitation, personal information, or images, making it easier for perpetrators to harass, intimidate and deceive their victims. Voice imitation apps are readily available, mimicking anyone's voice and potentially harassing the victim or leading them to a dangerous situation. AI can easily create false narratives based on very little information which could then be disseminated against the victim online and via social media.
- Reinforcement of gender biases: Since AI algorithms are primarily programmed by men, there can be glaring gender biases in the produced results. For example, initial images produced by Generative AI often depict women in a submissive light, with a slight smile (no matter what the circumstances) and quite often scantily clothed.
Q: How is AI helping domestic violence victims? What resources have arisen from the advancement of artificial intelligence to support women?
A: AI is proving to be a powerful tool in aiding victims of Intimate-Partner Violence (Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence). We are very excited about some of the emerging use cases that are already being deployed.
- Safe and Anonymous Education: Many women (particularly young women) don't realize that they are victims of coercive control, a form of domestic abuse. Coercive language can be subtle and difficult to recognize to those outside of the relationship, it's almost as though the abuser is talking in a code that only the victim recognizes. What Aimee Says is an AI-based app that can recognize that code, helping victims recognize whether communication from their partner is coercive and to determine if controlling behaviors are present within the communication, recognizing red flags such as gaslighting and manipulation.
- Social Media Monitoring for Signs of IPV: AI-based monitoring of social media posts for signs of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): One study developed by students from Emory University trained an AI model to identify signs of IPV collected from within X/Twitter posts. This live data was collected anonymously, unobtrusively and at low cost. The AI Natural Language Processing model detected patterns indicative of abuse and proactively offered informational and supportive services to victims.
- Support Services: Chatbots such as SARA are being used by the UN to provide 24/7 safe, anonymous and confidential first contact to domestic violence victims, helping them to assess their situation and make use of the institutional or civil society care services available in their country.
- Coaching IPV Survivors to Disconnect From Abusers: A Georgia Tech team is developing an AI-based tool to coach IPV survivors how to disconnect from their abuser. It is often difficult for survivors to stop communicating with their abusers once they escape the relationship. This inability to disconnect is because of the psychological connections reinforced while they were with their former partner. The proposed AI will not act like a ChatGPT chatbot. Instead, it will act like a coach, learning from abusive behavior tactics and potential survivor responses. The tool will then make suggestions based on each user's specific recovery progress and goals while factoring in potential risks. To improve its coaching performance and general knowledge base, the AI will continue to learn from the outcome of each incident survivors face.
Q: In what ways is AI a useful tool in the fight against human trafficking?
A: AI is a powerful tool in the war against trafficking, currently being used in the following ways:
- Data Analysis: Emerging technologies and innovative solutions like AI Natural Language Processing (NLP), which can analyze text and speech to detect indicators of trafficking in online communications, can aid in identifying both victims and traffickers, leading to more proactive interventions. Additionally, computer vision advancements can enhance image and video analysis, enabling the detection of visual cues and patterns related to trafficking. Non-profit Thorn has developed tools that employ facial recognition and AI to sca++n the internet, including dark web sites, for images and videos of children who are victims of sexual exploitation.
- Intercept Trafficking Victims: Love Justice International uses machine learning (a form of AI) to assign relative weights to a set of 'red flags' that may indicate human trafficking. To date, the organization has intercepted 30,578 people to prevent them from being trafficked across 64 monitoring stations in 28 countries.
- Disrupt Human Trafficking Networks: Decision Intelligence uses AI to better investigate human trafficking and to understand the trafficking network under investigation. It enables officials to make connections between different pieces of data, leading to more effective strategies for the disruption of human trafficking networks.
Q: What can readers expect from your book, Street Smart Safety for Women: Your Guide to Defensive Living
A: Street Smart Safety for Women is the first book about women's safety that completely covers what women should know about reducing their probability of being a crime victim. By women, for women, and co-authored by a female retired Deputy Sheriff with 28 years of experience on the street, our book covers not only the physical aspects of how women can keep themselves safe, but also the emerging threat of technology and social media, as well the emotional and mental aspects of predation that many women are not aware of.
Laura Frombach was introduced to technology in the U.S. Army working on Pershing nuclear missiles. Having spent much of her career as a technologist and engineer with IBM, HP, FedEx, Coca Cola Enterprises, Lenovo and others. A turning point in Laura's life was the 'aha' moment when she correlated her mother's mental illness to domestic violence. She is now the co-author of Street Smart Safety for Women: Your Guide to Defensive Living (Health Communications Inc, an imprint of Simon & Schuster / October 3, 2023 / $17.95) and advocates for local domestic violence shelters. Laura was one of the featured speakers at the TEDx Eustis conference and speaks on women's safety. Laura is an avid reader and fitness enthusiast, loves comedy and spiritual topics (not in that order, just in case...). She has been working on personal growth since the sixth grade.
Joy Farrow is a retired Deputy Sheriff with twenty-eight years of experience and the co-author of Street Smart Safety for Women: Your Guide to Defensive Living (Health Communications Inc, an imprint of Simon & Schuster / October 3, 2023 / $17.95). She worked road patrol in Pompano Beach, FL, and faced every situation imaginable. After the 9/11 tragedy, Joy transferred to the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Int'l Airport with the Broward Sheriff's Office to focus on the safety of air travelers. In 2017, Joy assisted with the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Airport. She has received numerous letters of commendations & several lifesaving awards. Joy was one of the featured speakers at the TEDx Eustis conference and speaks on women's safety. Joy is a walking encyclopedia of murder and crime topics; an avid personal fitness enthusiast, enjoys stand-up comedy and has done a couple of open mic nights!
You can purchase Street Smart Safety for Women: Your Guide to Defensive Living here.
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