Idle GPUs Are the Devil's Workshop

Salad, a company that pays gamers in Fortnite skins for their idle PCs, also generates AI porn.
Idle GPUs Are the Devil's Workshop
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Salad, a company that pays gamers in Fortnite skins and Roblox gift cards to rent their idle GPUs remotely to generative AI companies, is using those idle computers to create AI-generated porn. Though 404 Media hasn’t seen evidence that any of the images produced by Salad and its network of idle gaming PCs produced nonconsensual AI-generated sexual images, it’s technically possible, and Salad has had a generative AI client that previously produced that type of content.

Salad doesn’t hide the fact that it's possible that participating users may end up generating AI porn with their idle machines, and gives them the choice to opt-out from producing such content. When I signed up for the service myself, by default it opted my computer in for jobs that produce AI-generated adult content. If I selected an option to “configure workloads types manually” it unfurled an option to uncheck “Adult Content Workloads: Lets you earn from Workloads that generate adult content.”

Clicking the “Learn more” link under that option leads to a “workload preferences” page on Salad’s website which explains that “Some workloads may generate images, text, or video of a mature nature,” and that “All data related to a container workload, including media generated, is wiped from your system as soon as it is completed. These, like all Salad container workloads are fully isolated from your Windows OS. This means none of the content is accessible in your machine.”

On the Salad Discord, several moderators explain that the adult content workloads option is unchecked by default and can’t be turned on in countries with anti-pornography laws. Several users in the Discord asked if that means they will not be able to make as much money on Salad. On the “workload preferences” page, Salad explains that “There might be times where you earn a little less if we have high demand for certain adult content workloads, but we don't plan to make those companies the core of our business model.”

Several moderators on the Salad Discord also explain that any Stable Diffusion image generation job is automatically considered adult content. Salad acknowledged my request for comment but did not respond to specific questions, including a question on why it categorizes all image generation as adult content despite multiple requests One possible explanation is that Salad can’t see what images it’s generating on its platforms, and since generative AI is often used to produce porn, it’s marking all image generation jobs as possible “adult” just in case. 

Salad tracks a user’s earnings in dollars but doesn’t pay out in cash. Instead, users can use the money they earned in the Salad store, which contains a wide variety of gift cards, mostly focused on video games. There are Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, Valorant, League of Legends, and Twitch gift cards. There are also PayPal balances in increments of 5-100 dollars or euros, digital Visa cards, and gift cards for food delivery services like Grubhub and Deliveroo. 

Civitai, a platform for sharing Stable Diffusion models that also allows users to generate AI images on its site, is a Salad client. 404 Media has previously reported extensively on Civitai, and how the company made it easy for users to generate nonconsensual AI porn on and off its site. 

In December, I reported that OctoML, the company the provided Civitai with cloud compute to generate AI images on its site, thought it had generated what “could be categorized as child pornography” for Civitai users. Following that report, OctoML decided to end its relationship with Civitai, which temporarily hampered Civitai’s on site generation ability and sent the company scrambling for new providers. 

“Salad handles a portion of image generation depending on the time of day. We scale our service with them depending on the amount of demand,” a Civitai spokesperson told me. “We use multiple GPU and inference providers and continue to add new providers.”

In March, Salad founder and CEO Bob Miles shared a post Linkedin showing the company hit a "major milestone" of providing clients with just over 1 million GPU hours per month.

"Awesome. Happy to be a big part of this 😍," Justin Maier, founder and CEO of Civitai, said in a reply to that post. 

“Likewise 🙏,” Miles responded.

Even as early as October, before our investigation, Miles and Maier talked on Linkedin about enabling the Stable Diffusion SDXL model image generation with Salad’s help.  

Civitai and Salad declined to say how many images Salad is generating for Civitai users, so we don’t know if any PC gamers who rent their GPUs via the Salad platform ended up generating nonconsensual AI-generated porn on their computers, but it’s possible because Civitai had little protections against such content when it was a Salad client. 

Additionally, while Civitai introduced guardrails against prompts that produce nonconsensual AI-generated sexual images of celebrities after our reporting, our tests showed that it was trivial to bypass those guardrails up until recently with the same kind of prompts that previously allowed people to generate nonconsensual images of Taylor Swift on Microsoft’s Designer tool. Our testing showed that it was easy to bypass Civitai’s guardrails up until April 8. After we reached out to Civitai for comment, the bypass stopped working. 

"We're constantly revising and adding systems to combat abuse,” the Civitai spokesperson said. “We understand that people will always be looking for workarounds for our guardrails. There are no out-of-the-box solutions to these problems, and our ML team focuses entirely on curbing these efforts.”