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The Twitch Creator Busted For Looking At AI Porn Of Fellow Streamers, Explained
breaking down a developing scandal that's a near perfect mix of tabloid gossip and AI ethics
“AI is set up for an absolutely monstrous 2023.” — Twitch streamer Atrioc, in a recent video called “How 2023 Will Change Everything”
Earlier this month during a Twitch stream, which he later uploaded to YouTube with the name “How 2023 Will Change Everything,” Twitch streamer Brandon Ewing, popularly known as Atrioc, made the following prediction: “AI is set up for an absolutely monstrous 2023.” Just a few months before that, Atrioc had made a massive life change, quitting a presumably lucrative job at Nvidia to co-found OFFBRAND, a creative agency that fosters and supports emerging streaming video talent. One of his co-founders is fellow streamer Ludwig Ahgren, known mononymously as Ludwig, who a few months before was Atrioc’s groomsman at his wedding with cosplayer Arianna Ewing. All in all, in less than a year, Atrioc has had quite a run: a transition out of a presumably well-paying job, a promising new business with a talented team of partners, and a newly-minted marriage.
But on January 26, just over a week after Atrioc predicted that 2023 would be a monster year for AI, one of his viewers noticed that in a split-second when he was tabbing between windows on his desktop during a stream, Atrioc had been looking at non-consensual AI-generated deepfake porn of two female Twitch streamers. One of them was apparently the mega-popular Pokimane, with whom he’s worked. In fact, she appears in one of the first shots of OFFBRAND’s sizzle reel that autoplays on the company’s slick landing page. And further complicating the issue, Atrioc himself has since made it clear that these deepfakes were behind a paywall, meaning that he paid to see them.
Yesterday, Atrioc ran a 14-minute Twitch stream titled Apology, which you can watch here. And predictably, after the gaming news site Dexerto picked up on the apology and tweeted it out, the story went viral. Visibly crying throughout, Atrioc apologized to both the victims of the deepfakes and his Twitch community. Repeatedly stating that all this happened at 2 a.m, he explained that while his wife Arianna was out of town, he fell into a rabbit hole after clicking on a Pornhub ad, where he then purchased access to non-consensual AI-generated porn of Pokimane and others. From his apology:
At 2 a.m., I’ve been reading all this fuckin’ AI stuff… deepfake music, deepfake art and everything, and I’m in these fuckin’ Discords, I just feel so fuckin’ embarrassed, but I was just on Pornhub, a fuckin’ regular-ass normal fuckin’ website, and there was an ad, there’s an ad on every fuckin’ video — so I know everybody must be clicking it because it’s on every fuckin’ video…
So: Atrioc was already obsessed with new trends in AI, an ad on Pornhub piqued his interest, and he wasn’t thinking about whether or not his behavior was morally defensible when he proceeded to pay for deepfake porn of Pokimane — a colleague and perhaps friend. He also makes these statements:
“It’s true. It’s 100% true. I looked at a deepfake porn video of streamers. It’s disgusting, it really is disgusting, it’s wrong.”
“I really want women on Twitch to feel safer.”
“I got morbidly curious and I clicked something.”
“I don’t support this stuff… I regret it, I would never do it again as long as I live.”
“I just clicked a fuckin’ link at 2 a.m. and the morals didn’t catch up to me.”
[Referring to AI deepfake porn] “I don’t believe in it, I don’t stand for it.”
“There’s no excuse, I really am sorry, most of all to the people in the community I let down.”
“I really hate myself for making this mistake.”
His wife Arianna is featured in the background of the apology stream, and at one point takes the mic and tells viewers that she believes the deepfake issue is “not a pattern of behavior” for Atrioc, and that she’s “so sorry for everyone that’s hurt… and will continue to hurt.” As of today, the stream currently has over 176,000 views, but the tweet that broke the story from Dexerto has 66 million views.
Check out more coverage of the Atrioc deepfake porn issue on Pirate Wires: My Tweet About AI Porn Went Viral, And What It Taught Me Was Upsetting
Because it’s a near perfect mix of tabloid gossip and AI ethics, the story roiled the discourse throughout the day today. QTCinderella — another streamer, and Atrioc’s coworker Ludwig’s girlfriend — has already streamed a tearful reaction, vowing to sue the creator of the Pokimane deepfakes, because it turns out that same creator made deepfakes of QTCinderalla, too. A few big streamers have uploaded their reactions to YouTube, and some mainstream news outlets are already picking up on the story. The actual creator of the deepfakes seems to have scrubbed his account from the site he was selling them on and issued an apology, according to Vice.
Aside from Atrioc’s uncertain future, there are several open questions whose answers will almost surely sketch out a template for how we deal with the inevitably ever-more ubiquitous deepfakes in the coming months and years:
How is Atrioc’s company OFFBRAND going to manage communications in the coming weeks?
Do the streamers who were victims of these deepfakes in fact have legal recourse against the deepfake creator, who depicted them without their consent?
And what about Atrioc himself — how are we to judge him? Could his actions be described as virtual rape, or is that too dramatic? Would we consider them harmless if we somehow knew about them, but they were never revealed publicly? What’s the moral calculus at work here?
For his part, Atrioc seems to be preparing to take a break, though time will tell if the mob allows that. At the end of his apology, speaking through tears, he tells his viewers “I don’t think I’m going to stream, then I’m going to go to Japan, then we’ll see. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Update (2.1.23): Atrioc issued a statement late last night. Read it in full below, but briefly, it:
Specifically apologizes to Pokimane and Maya, the streamers who viewers saw on Atrioc’s screen
Describes how he will cover the legal costs associated with trying to shut down the website that hosted the deepfakes, as well as the costs incurred by “all women affected” to remove unwanted content from the web
Announces his intention to “step away” from content creation and his business, OFFBRAND.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this post inaccurately implied Pornhub allows deepfake porn creators to advertise on their site.