CBS News reports that 50-year-old Raffaela Spone has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of cyber harassment of a child and three more counts of harassment. Spone is alleged to have doctored images of three girls on the cheerleading squad in an attempt to incriminate them, making it seem like some of them were nude, drinking alcohol, or vaping.
Spone also reportedly texted these deepfake images to the girls and told at least one to commit suicide. Police launched the probe after one of the girls reported the harassment via text message in July 2020, and as the investigation went on, the other teens came forward. The girls’ parents and the owners of the gyms where they practiced also received harassing text messages.
Spone was arrested on March 4 after having apparently used deepfake technology to create the fake depictions. “With deepfake technology, people can take a still image and map it onto an existing video to disparagingly alter the appearance of someone,” the New York Times writes.
Spone’s attorney Robert Birtch told WPVI-TV, “She has absolutely denied what they’re charging her with and because of the fact that this has hit the press, she has received death threats. She has had to go to the police herself, they have a report. Her life has been turned upside down.”
The cheerleading team has shown compassion for the families and teens who have been drawn into the situation, with the team adding that it has a “very strict anti-bullying policy.”