The UK criminalizes sharing deepfake porn without consent

The UK criminalizes sharing deepfake porn without consent

Get ready for yet another expansion of the UK’s online safety law: The Ministry of Justice has announced changes to the law that aim to protect victims of revenge porn, deepfake pornography and other abuses related to the taking and sharing of intimate images without consent — in a crackdown on a pattern of abuse that disproportionately affects women and girls.

The government says the latest amendment to the bill will broaden the scope of current intimate image offenses – “so that more perpetrators will face prosecution and potentially jail time”.

Other abusive behaviors that will become explicitly illegal include “downblousing” (where photographs are taken off a woman’s top without consent); and installing equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record pictures of someone without her consent.

The government describes the planned changes as a comprehensive package of measures to modernize laws in this area.

It’s also notable as it’s the first time it’s criminalized the sharing of deepfakes.

Increasingly accessible and powerful AIs for image and video generation have led to an increase in the generation and abuse of deepfake porn, prompting concern about the harms related to this type of AI-enabled technology.

Just this week, The Verge reported that the maker of open source text-to-image generator Stable Diffusion had tweaked the software to make it harder for users to generate nude and pornographic images, apparently responding to the technology’s risk of generative artificial intelligence. used to create pornographic images of child pornography.

But this is just one example. Many other tools for generating pornographic deepfakes remain available.

From revenge porn to deepfakes

While the UK passed a law against porn in 2015, victims and activists have warned for years that the regime isn’t working and have lobbied for a rethink.

This has led to some purposeful changes over the years. For example, the government made ‘upskirting’ illegal through a change to the law that went into effect in 2019. It said in March that ‘cyberflashing’ would be added as a crime to new online safety legislation.

However, he has now decided that further amendments are needed to broaden and clarify intimate image offenses in order to make it easier for police and prosecutors to prosecute cases and ensure that legislation keeps pace with technology.

It is acting on several recommendations from the Legal Commission in its 2021 review on intimate image abuse.

This includes repealing and replacing current legislation with new offenses that the government believes will lower the bar for successful prosecutions, including a new base offense of sharing an intimate picture without consent (so in this case there will be no the obligation to demonstrate the intention to cause distress); along with two more serious offenses based on intent to cause humiliation, alarm or distress and to obtain sexual gratification.

The planned changes will also create two specific offenses for threatening to share and install equipment to allow for the taking of images; and criminalize the non-consensual sharing of fabricated intimate images (aka deepfakes).

The government says around 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have been threatened with sharing intimate images, with more than 28,000 reports of disclosure of private sexual images without consent recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.

He also points to the rise of abusive deepfake porn, citing an example of a website that virtually bares women receiving 38 million visits in the first eight months of 2021.

A growing number of UK lawmakers and campaign groups have called for a ban on the use of AI to nudize women since the technology’s abusive use has emerged, as reported by this BBC report on one such site , called DeepSukebe, last year.

Commenting on the planned changes in a statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said:

We must do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate photos to stalk or humiliate them.

Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and safeguard women and girls from such vile abuse.

Under the government’s plan, new deepfake porn offenses will impose a legal obligation on platforms and services covered by new online safety legislation to remove this type of material if it has been shared on their platforms without consent, with the risk of severe penalties, under the online safety bill, if they fail to remove illegal content.

Victims of revenge porn and other intimate image abuse have complained for years of the difficulty and disproportionate effort required on their part to track down and report images that have been shared online without their consent.

The ministers argue that the proposed changes to UK law will improve the protection of victims in this area.

Commenting in another statement of support, DCMS Secretary of State Michelle Donelan said:

Through the Online Safety Act, I am ensuring that tech companies must stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also upgrade the criminal law to prevent scary crimes such as cyberflashing.

With these latest additions to the bill, our laws will go even further to protect women and children, who are disproportionately affected, from this horrendous abuse once and for all.

One point to note is that the online safety bill remains on hold while the government works on drafting amendments related to another aspect of the legislation.

Yesterday, the leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, confirmed that the bill will return to parliament on Monday 5 December.

The government has denied that delays will derail passage of the bill in parliament, but there is no doubt parliamentary time is tight. So it’s unclear when (or even if) the bill will actually become UK law, given that there are only about two years left before a general election is due to be called.

In addition, parliamentary time must be found to make the necessary changes to the UK law on the abuse of intimate images.

The government has not yet offered a timetable for that component, saying only that it will take forward this package of changes “as soon as parliamentary time permits”, and adding that it will announce further details “in due course”.

This report has been updated to include the date for the online safety bill to return to parliament for the remaining stages

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