Man fined for contempt over intimate deepfake images

A man who refused to remove intimate deepfake images of Australian public figures he had posted online until after his arrest has been fined for contempt.

Anthony Rotondo, also known as Antonio, was taken to court by the eSafety Commissioner after he replied to a removal notice, saying it meant nothing to him as he was not an Australian resident.

"Get an arrest warrant if you think you are right," he added.

After a court ordered Rotondo to remove images and not share the pictures, he emailed them to 50 addresses including those of the eSafety Commissioner and media outlets.

Rotondo allegedly posted the deepfake - or digitally manipulated - images of Australian public figures in intimate situations online, Justice Roger Derrington said in reasons for his judgment published on Wednesday.

Rotondo did not remove the material from a website after the initial direction in May or infringement notices by the eSafety Commissioner.

Nine days after police found Rotondo had travelled from the Philippines to the Gold Coast in October, the commissioner started Federal Court proceedings.

After Rotondo failed to respond to court orders to remove the images, an arrest warrant was issued but the 53-year-old was arrested on charges unrelated to the contempt.

He later admitted in the Federal Court proceedings the contempt, which Justice Derrington said was objectively serious and deliberate conduct.

In contumacious disregard of another judge’s orders, Rotondo neglected or refused to remove offending images and, instead, posted additional intimate images of other people directly to the commissioner and other recipients, he added.

“Mr Rotondo’s conduct in disseminating the orders and other documents undermined the court’s attempt to maintain the privacy and dignity of the depicted persons.”

The images were taken down after Rotondo voluntarily provided passwords and other information for the commissioner’s officers but his co-operation came after being arrested on the other charges.

“The history of the matter suggests that, were he still at liberty and perhaps in another country, he would not have been so accommodating,” Justice Derrington said.

He ordered Rotondo pay $25,000 and the commissioner’s costs.

Rotondo was arrested sitting at a table with a laptop in a Southport apartment in October after detectives received a complaint that a Brisbane school had been sent an email that included deepfake images of students and teachers, police said.

He was charged with five counts of obscene publications and exhibitions, one count of obscene publication and exhibition of a child under 16 years and one count of endangering property by fire.

His matter was listed for mention in Southport Magistrates Court on Thursday.

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