London, UK – The mother of James Bulger has achieved a victory in her fight against Google, as the tech giant has tightened its rules to remove AI-generated images of her deceased son from its platforms. Denise Fergus, the mother, took action after upsetting images were discovered on the social media app TikTok, showing an avatar of James speaking about his murder. These distressing images were also found on Google’s search engine, causing immense pain for Denise, as her son was brutally murdered at the age of two.
His killers, Jon Venebles and Robert Thompson, who were both 10 years old at the time, kidnapped and ultimately murdered James. Due to the outrage caused by these AI-generated images, Google has decided to change its terms and conditions, enabling the removal of such content from its search engine and affiliated websites, including YouTube.
Denise expressed her relief at the implementation of new rules regarding AI-generated content featuring deceased minors. She stated that the distress caused to her and her family by these images was immeasurable, and she considered it a violation of their grief. In response to this change, Google has mentioned that content realistically simulating deceased minors or victims of major violent events will be removed, and repeated violations of community guidelines or terms of service could result in account termination.
This move has been praised by Denise, who sees it as a crucial step towards protecting the memories of those who have passed away. The US-based firm has been acknowledged for recognizing the gravity of this issue and taking steps to address it. TikTok, in response to the same issue from last year, stated that their community guidelines clearly prohibit synthetic media containing the likeness of a child and that content of this nature will continue to be removed as found.
The disturbing trend of using AI to generate likenesses of deceased children, known as ‘trauma porn’, has been widely criticized, with mention of similar content being created for missing or murdered children such as Madeleine McCann and Baby P. The trend is not confined to AI-generated images of deceased minors, as in 2020, TikTok users faced backlash for dressing up as Holocaust victims and posting videos simulating their experiences. This drew severe criticism from the director of survivor affairs at the US Holocaust Museum, who stated that such actions dishonor the memory of the victims, offend survivors, and trivialize the history.