Man arrested for allegedly producing, distributing AI-generated child porn

The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that a Wisconsin man has been arrested for producing AI-generated child pornography, saying "using AI to produce sexually explicit depictions of children is illegal." File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

May 20 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin man is in federal custody for allegedly producing sexually explicit AI-generated images of minors and sending similar AI-generated child pornography to a 15-year-old boy.

Steven Anderegg, 42, is accused of using a text-to-image generative artificial intelligence model to create thousands of realistic images of nude or partially clothed minors engaged in sexual acts, which he then stored on his computer, the Justice Department announced Monday.

"As alleged, Steven Anderegg used AI to produce thousands of illicit images of prepubescent minors, and even sent sexually explicit AI-generated images to a minor," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

"Today's announcement sends a clear message: using AI to produce sexually explicit depictions of children is illegal, and the Justice Department will not hesitate to hold accountable those who possess, produce or distribute AI-generated child sexual abuse material," Argentieri added.

According to court documents, Anderegg is accused of communicating with a 15-year-old boy and describing how he used Stable Diffusion to convert his text prompts into images of minors. He allegedly used Instagram to direct message the boy several GenAI images, which Instagram reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Anderegg, who lived in Holmen, was indicted last Wednesday. He was charged with four counts of producing, distributing and possessing "obscene visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and transferring obscene material to a minor under the age of 16," according to the Justice Department.

If convicted, Anderegg could face up to 70 years in prison. He is currently in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

"Technology may change, but our commitment to protecting children will not," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

"The Justice Department will aggressively pursue those who produce and distribute child sexual abuse material -- or CSAM -- no matter how that material was created," Monaco added. "Put simply, CSAM generated by AI is still CSAM, and we will hold accountable those who exploit AI to create obscene, abusive and increasingly photorealistic images of children."