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The Courts Government Graphics Software News

Graphics Advances Make Identifying Real Images Difficult 531

destinyland writes "The FBI's geeks admitted they were nervous over computer-generated images at a recent forensics conference. In court they're now arguing that a jury 'can tell' if an image is real or computer-generated — which marks the current boundary between legal and illegal. But reporter Debbie Nathan argues that that distinction is getting fuzzy, and that geeks will inevitably make it obsolete." Note: some of the linked (computer-generated) images may be disturbing.
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Graphics Advances Make Identifying Real Images Difficult

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  • by Intron ( 870560 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:13AM (#23680827)
    The justification for child porn laws is that real children are harmed in making it. The justification for arresting purchasers is that they create the market for it. It doesn't matter whether they buy CG or real porn, they still encourage the crimes against children.
  • NSFW (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Atheose ( 932144 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:18AM (#23680901)
    It'd be nice to see a "NSFW" (Not Suitable For Work) tag on the article. I clicked the link and I'm at work, and am now worried that large men with guns will appear. Saying "The following images may be disturbing" is too ambiguous.
  • How to tell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TappedOut ( 1185315 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:18AM (#23680913)
    The latest Scientific American has an interesting article on the current state of the art of how to tell whether a photo has been doctored. []
  • by bugg ( 65930 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:19AM (#23680921) Homepage
    Photos don't testify at trials, people do. Generally if you have photographic evidence you need to have the cameraperson testify, and they will need to testify that they took the picture and establish (sometimes by establishing chain of custody/development procedures) that the picture reflects what they saw and how someone edited or added things.
  • by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:20AM (#23680941)

    The problem is when it's impossible to tell the real from the fake. At that point you couldn't prosecute any of the real ones because they'll just say it's a really good fake.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:23AM (#23680973) Homepage Journal

    As long as no children are hurt in the production of these images, why does it matter how real they look?
    Because put a virtual image that looks real in front of a jury, and if they can't tell the difference, they may put an innocent person in prison. Imagine if the virtual child-pr0n showed a guy that had nothing to do with it's creation molesting a child? Talk about your witch hunts!

    Also, think about this. If you look at pr0n, doesn't it make you horny?

    Now, let's talk about child pr0n. Doesn't matter whether it's virtual or not -- if you're a pedophile, it will still make you want to go out and act on that, just as 'normal' pr0n does for the non-sexual-deviant.

    Do you really think that stimulating child predators with pr0n -- even virtual pr0n -- is a good idea?
  • by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:27AM (#23681007)

    ... convincing a jury to dismiss photographic evidence -- including video from surveillance camera ...

    IANAL, but I think video from surveillance cameras will be alright because all you have to do is have the person in charge of the surveillance swear the films haven't been altered. This would force the defense to posit that someone is trying to frame the defendant and is lying about the films being genuine. That would usually be considered unreasonable doubt (unless of course you've got some actual evicence and not just the accusation that the video is fake).

  • by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:31AM (#23681063) Homepage Journal
    M'lud, I present exhibit A - a 1024-node renderfarm accompanied by a small army of animators and artists that we believe was used to fabricate exhibit B ;)

    At the moment (as far as I'm aware - I have a friend who works in forensic IT who has a colleague that specialises in detecting doctored images and video), even the top-end CGI is relatively easy to distinguish from the real thing, especially where humans are involved (even more so for video). Whilst I agree there's a possibility that tech and skills capable of making realistic human animations and the like may only be a few years away, I still think it'll be a long time before such fare becomes indistinguishable from the real thing, and even if it was there'd be an inevitable paper trail (or lack of it) concerning the origin of the pics/vids.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:45AM (#23681227) Homepage
    Tofo encourages the slaughter of chickens?
  • by RobBebop ( 947356 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:45AM (#23681241) Homepage Journal

    you need to have the cameraperson testify

    I think that's the point that nobody is watching the footage of these Big Brother cameras all the time. A "wired" criminal could have the resources to doctor the surveillance tapes before anybody notices the crime has been committed. At that point, the defense attorney is left with the hard task of demonstrating that it isn't his client in the videos.

    Just like lie detector tests... surveillance videos are not infallible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:49AM (#23681295)
    That's clearly not the argument. The connection is that, in order to view child porn, you have to acquire child porn, which means you are on the demand side of a trade, raising the price for child porn and thereby increasing the incentive for producing child porn. The only remaining question is: Does demand for CG child porn cause more actual child porn to be produced because the consumers are indifferent about the source of the pictures or does it not because real child porn and CG child porn are consumed by different people?

    There may be an argument for legalizing and strictly controlling CG child porn, so that people who are aware of their sexual disorder and do not want children to get hurt have the option to stay legal, but I think this is not like computer games: The barrier between games and the real world does not need to hold up against one of the most basic drives. Also, the often-touted assumption with computer games is that people might transfer their game behavior to the real world, whereas with child porn there would only be the hope that a suppressed real world behavior stays suppressed as long as a surrogate is available. That is a very slim hope.
  • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:55AM (#23681383) Journal

    I still think it'll be a long time before such fare becomes indistinguishable from the real thing

    I am against child abuse just as much as anyone, but the more I hear about this issue the more it makes me think that the laws are asking society to perfect hypocrisy. On the one hand we have music videos which are basically soft-porn, magazines on supermarket shelves at child's-eye level which are no less sexually explicit, but now we have artists charged and art exhibitions canceled because they have photographs of naked children.

    Ok, I personally have no inclination of visiting such an exhibition - I don't agree with the idea, but to make that illegal is ridiculous.

    My point is, so what if someone can render a CG image of a child or adult so cleverly so that it is 'real'? We are missing the point. Laws are meant to protect people from harm, not electrons. There has to be proof that there is a causative link between such an image and an abuse of a child. Nobody is going around arresting paintings of people being slaughtered or whatever. The Louvre, for example, contains numerous, magnificent works of art which depict terrible deeds - but they are not regarded as obscene.

    There is a difference between child molestation and paedophilia []. One is a criminal act, the other is a psychiatric illness. Why are we criminalizing a medical condition?

  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:55AM (#23681387) Journal
    Fittingly, their art is an homage to Diego Velázquez [].

    Hard for a layman to tell a photo of a Velázquez from a photo of its model. Like everything else, today's artists just have better tools. A good painter could have fooled the FBI in 1920, only easier than with a computer-generated image today.

    The cameras weren't as good then, so it would have been harder to tell a photo of a model from a photo of a painting of the model. The cameras were not in color. Nobody expected a photo of a painting to be anything but a photo.

    Lets see any of you lay persons who haven't been trained in art make a photoshop image as good as a Velázquez painting.
  • by TCP-mHz ( 606294 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:11AM (#23681575)
    At what point will photographs no longer be credible? When it progresses to the point that we cannot tell a fake from a real photo, could we have possibly blurred the lines between reality and illusion a bit too much? When it gets to the point that photographic evidence is no longer good enough to establish, let's say, an alibi, what will we look to then?
  • by Darth Maul ( 19860 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:25AM (#23681759) Homepage
    I was in a jury for a case where a guy has child porn that he "made" using legal porn he found online, but photoshopped on the faces of young girls he knew (including a stepdaughter). In Virginia, we found him guilty because he "manufactured child porn", so it was almost as bad as having actual underage girls photographed in those scenes. It was an interesting case because of the legal definitions.

  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:42AM (#23681957) Journal
    You were on the jury and you sold this guy up the river for that?

    Way to be part of the problem...
  • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:55AM (#23682149) Journal
    Censorship is evil. No matter what. But we have to be honest here. When I see the effect that mass media has on adults, specifically during election season (which never seems to end anymore). I have to come to the conclusion the its effect is very powerful. And it's much more powerful on children with brains of mush. Not that many adults don't also have mushy brains. And the problem is not lack of censorship. It's a lack of adequate counterpoints.
  • Um, sez who? You and your baptist minister?

    I'm an atheist. But nice bigotry.

    People with anything resembling a healthy mental state are not moved to violent acts by pictures.

    I didn't say it moves people to violent acts. But is often damaging to forming healthy relationships.

    Having had a certain amount of exposure from the time I was 12, I feel qualified to comment that...

    You are qualified to comment about yourself. That's like saying, "Having consumed alcohol since I was in High School, I feel qualified to conclude that alcohol is never harmful."

    If masturbation strikes you as illegal and dangerous, perhaps porn is harmful.

    Search for "porn addiction" and be educated. A lot of our brain wiring is devoted to seeking orgasms. Taken to excess, certain people basically can't get what they need anymore in real life and start living in a porn-fueled fantasy world that real life can never live up to, and that makes it very difficult to form real attachments. Porn is a relationship with all frosting and no cake.

  • It's even easier (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:19AM (#23682475) Journal
    It's usually even easier than having to plant it on his laptop. (Not that that's hard either, given most people's security skills.)

    Just post a few of those photos online, and chances are the Interpol will start wondering who's the adult child molester there. See, for example: Interpol appeal unmasks US actor as child abuse suspect [].

    There's even a funny bit at the end about another guy where the police had photos with his face "swirled" to hide his identity, so the police just reversed the filter. So you could even make it more damning by doing just that with that CG photo: apply some easy to undo Photoshop or Gimp filter, so it looks more believable. (After all, someone trying to frame him, wouldn't have tried to hide his face, right?;) Heck, if done right, it could even hide the imperfections of that CG photo.

    There we go. No access to his laptop is needed.

    Now, admittedly, actually planting it on the computer would make it easier to prosecute all the wayx through. But then again, if you just want to make someone's life hell for a few weeks, even the purely online version will do just fine.
  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:05PM (#23683125) Journal
    1) No. In a jury you decide guilt or innocence based on what YOU think is correct. If you disagree with the law, "jury activism" is a legitimate form of protest. Difference being, if you deadlock the jury you can actually do some good.

    2) so what? Prove your stupid assertion. By your logic he already caused "trauma" to those kids the first time he fantasized about them. He had pictures of kids he knew. Unless he was distributing this hackneyed concoction there was no "trauma" involved except the trauma he now faces in prison, convicted of a thought crime.

    3) Way to think for yourself. Baaaah.
  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:26PM (#23683447) Journal
    Utter bullshit.

    Now, show us a study of people NOT CONVICTED OF SEX CRIMES indicating how many look at porn, how many look at violent porn, how many look at child porn - how many find images of children "pleasurable" in some way, how many find images of teens arousing, etc.

    Find one. Just one.

    What difference does it make how I view monogamy? Does it make me a rapist or a child molester because I think monogamy is a stupid, impractical idea that few (even among those who claim it) actually practice? Does my having fantasies about rape make me a criminal? I've fantasized about killing people, does that make me a murderer?

    This "study" is from the same folks who claim spanking kids cause sexual problems later in life - Straus, for one, is a "domestic violence" ACTIVIST who has campaigned for decades on this agenda. You might as well be citing Andrea Dworkin.

    Finding a needle in a haystack isn't a difficult challenge at all when you move the haystack to a needle factory.
  • I heard differently (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:27PM (#23685165) Homepage Journal
    I heard that was true before digital cameras got cheap. Last I heard was a few years ago. At that time, some cop said most stuff is either pre-mid-70s or post-mid-90s, with more and more modern stuff showing up every day.

    More recently I heard on TV that the rate of never-before-seen-before victims is slowing down a bit. It's slow enough that when a new victim shows up, the cops scramble to try to find and rescue her.

    Combine the two and it indicates a trough in new material from the mid-70s to the mid-80s and a peak in new material in the early- to mid-2000s.

    Anyone have more updated info?

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner