TikTok has been ordered to apologize to the family of James Bulger over the airing of “heartbreaking” AI-generated videos showing the two-year-old detailing his murder.
An animated version of the toddler appears in the clips, depicting the moments leading up to his death.
He was abducted from a Merseyside shopping center on February 12, 1993 by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10 years old at the time, who then tortured and killed him.
Sky News has seen a video in which a photo of James is made to speak by animating his lips and giving him a generated voice explaining what happened.
The clip was easily found after ICT Tac said he deleted those videos for violating his guidelines.
THE ChineseThe company owned by James was alerted after James’ mother, Denise Fergus, told The Mirror newspaper that the videos were “beyond sick” and demanded they be removed.
“TikTok owes his family an apology”
Kym Darby, chair of the James Bulger Memorial Trust, told Sky News there had been more than 100 clips on the platform and some were still leaking.
“It’s absolutely shocking,” she said.
“Denise is not afraid of people talking about James and what happened because it raises awareness, especially for the younger generation, but it goes beyond that.
“TikTok owes him a personal apology and some assurance that they will all be taken down.”
Sky News has contacted TikTok about the remaining clips, but has yet to hear back.
Earlier he said ‘there is no place on our platform for disturbing content of this nature’ and ‘synthetic’ media featuring likenesses of young people has been banned and will be removed.
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A government spokesman told Sky News that Online security billits long-awaited internet safety legislation, would make social media platforms legally responsible for adhering to their terms of service.
“Heartbreaking clips like this serve no purpose other than to cause distress and anger,” they said.
“The Online Safety Bill, which will become law in a few months, will ensure that the biggest social media platforms act quickly to enforce the rules they agree with their users, and decisively on any complaints made.
“If they fail to deliver on the promises they make to users, the bill will give media regulator Ofcom the power to take firm action, including fines of up to £18 million or £10 million. % of global annual revenue.”
The outraged family of James Bulger’s short film
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‘What’s the mentality in doing this?’
Ms Darby said Ms Fergus’ husband, Stuart, contacted one of the Philippines-based producers of the clips.
“He asked them to please take it down,” she said.
“They came back and said, ‘we’re trying to raise awareness about these terrible cases’.”
Reports suggest AI-generated videos featuring other missing or murdered children, such as Madeleine McCann and Liverpool schoolboy Rhys Joneswere also shared on TikTok.
Broadcaster Pete Price, who reported on the story of James’ murder more than 30 years ago, told Sky News’ Breakfast program he was “irritated” by the reports.
“What is the mentality in doing this? This child was not just shot by two boys, he was tortured,” he said.
James’ killers, Venables and Thompson, were jailed for life but released on license with new identities in 2001.
Venables, 40, was returned to prison in 2010 and 2017, the latter for possessing indecent images of children.
He was denied parole in 2020.
The offensive videos come as the government prepares to hold a global summit on AI regulation later this year.
Internet safety campaigners are already calling for AI-generated images featuring children to be made a priority, with a group warning of the dangers of realistic abuse material.