Italian authorities have launched an investigation into the activities of deepfake bots on Telegram. It was revealed that they generate fake nude images of unsuspecting women, including minors.

Italy’s Data Protection Authority has launched an investigation into the widespread use of bots that generate fake nude images in the Telegram messaging app. The news follows an investigation by security firm Sensity. The company found out that as of July 2020, more than 100,000 fake images have been created and posted on public Telegram channels.

Bots can create fake nudity (or partially nude) in watermarked images, and users pay to “reveal” it. Users could send the bot a photo of the woman and get back a version of the photo with the “removed” clothes, without indicating that the image had been changed. According to Sensity, minors were among the victims of these bots. Their photographs are often pulled from social media accounts and then processed.

Sensity discovered that the fake nude images were created by DeepNude software that surfaced on the web last year. Its creator closed the site, stating that “the likelihood that people will misuse it is too high.” However, according to Sensity, the software has been redesigned and is now widely available in open source repositories and torrent sites.

“The ease of use of this program makes anyone with a photo on the net potentially a victim of deepfakes,” the Italian agency said. The company plans to ask Telegram to provide relevant information to check if it is complying with data protection rules.