The popular messaging and social media app WeChat has taken action against Zao, the viral Chinese iOS app that creates highly realistic face-swap videos.

WeChat Flags Zao

According to reports, WeChat users can still share face-swap videos generated through Zao to the social media app. However, they can no longer send invite links to their friends or download the free app.

"This web page has been reported multiple times and contains security risks," the message from WeChat reads (per Tech Crunch). "To maintain a safe online environment, access to this page has been blocked."

Zao Sparks Privacy Concerns

Zao was released just last weekend, but the app immediately went viral as users share their videos on social media sites, including WeChat. According to App Annie, which tracks app downloads around the world, the face-swap app is still the most downloaded free app in China's iOS App Store as of Sept. 1, Sunday.

However, the app also immediately drew flak. Aside from fears of potential misuse of deepfake technology, users discovered that the app's terms of use include a clause that gives Zao full ownership of all uploaded content for marketing purposes.

The people behind the viral app responded to the backlash by removing the clause and promising users that all deleted content from the app will be wiped from the servers. All content generated using the app, Zao said, will only be used to improve the service.

"The questions you have raised have been received, and we are thinking about how to fix the problems," reads the statement on the social media site Weibo. "We need a little time."

Deepfake — audio and video generated through artificial intelligence — can be used to create misleading content. While realistic deepfake needs skill to create, critics fear that apps such as Zao brings deepfake technology to everyone who has a smartphone.

Zao is only available to iOS users in China. It allows users to either upload their own photos or follow onscreen prompts directing them to blink their eyes and open their mouths to create a more realistic deepfake. They can then choose from a variety of videos of Chinese celebrities or Hollywood stars on which to superimpose their faces.

The app was published by Momo, the company behind a popular dating app that was later turned into a livestreaming platform.

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