Startup App Zao Gets Restricted In China With Other Countries Planning To Do The Same Due To Security Concerns
The Zao app developed by a division of Momo, one of China’s most popular and successful dating apps, creates videos that replace the faces of celebrities in scenes from popular movies, shows and music videos with a selfie uploaded by the user. The app uses high tech platforms and even AI to create superb videos. Some have termed the term deepfake technology to describe the tech that could replace characters on any video with a just selfie.
The app went viral after being launched last weekend not only in China, but also in India and other countries. It realistic face-swapping videos and high quality reproductions impressed millions overnight.
By going viral quickly and being very easy to use (Zao’s videos can be generated from a single selfie, though it suggests that users upload photos from several angles for better results), the app has gained much attention from the authorities and regulatory bodie , as it also focused more attention on deepfake technology and how it can potentially be used to spread misinformation or harass people.
There was also the infringement on copyright issues as many people were using scenes from Hollywood movies and also Tv dramas etc to put on their own faces and share the videos.
Wechat was the first to ban access to the usage of the app on it platforms followed by numerous other sites and platforms.
On Wechat, a message is displayed that says “this web page has been reported multiple times and contains security risks. To maintain a safe online environment, access to this page has been blocked.”
Zao was released last Friday and quickly became the top free iOS app in China within hours.
Critics quickly reacted and warned that the technology can be used to create bogus videos to manipulate elections, defame someone, or potentially spark unrest by spreading misinformation on a massive scale.
An announcement posted on Zao’s Weibo reads “We completely understand everybody’s concerns about the privacy issue. We are aware of the issue and we are thinking about how to fix the problems, we need a little time.”
Its terms and conditions now say user-generated content will only be used by the company to improve the app and that all deleted content will be removed from its servers.
Countries like India, Singapore, Germany and US have already been alerted to the app and its regulatory authorities are already issuing statements that the app will not be allowed in some of these countries due to security and misuse concerns.