Online Safety Bill amendments to criminalise ‘deepfakes’ and ‘downblousing’
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New amendments to the Online Safety Bill will see people who share pornographic ‘deepfakes’ and ‘downblousing’ images online face criminal charges for the first time.
Deepfakes are explicit images or videos which have been manipulated to look like someone without their consent while downblousing photos are those taken down a woman’s top without consent.
The government will also bring forward a package of additional laws to tackle a range of abusive behaviour including the installation of equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record images of someone without their consent.
In July 2022, the Law Commission recommended that the government changed the law to make the sharing of deepfake pornography without consent a criminal offence.
The oft-delayed Online Safety Bill has been presented by the government as a ground-breaking law that will protect the privacy and safety of people online.
The bill will also place a legal obligation on platforms to protect users from harmful content for the first time, with penalties for breaching the new rules including fines that could run into billions of pounds for larger companies.
To avoid this, social media companies will be required to double down on content monitoring and impose more strict age-verification processes.
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said: “We must do more to protect women and girls, from people who take or manipulate intimate photos in order to hound 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.”
The amendment to the Bill will broaden the pre-existing scope of current intimate image offences, so that more perpetrators will face prosecution and potentially time in jail.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said: “I welcome these moves by the government which aim to make victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their own homes.
“I am pleased to see this commitment in the Online Safety Bill, and hope to see it continue its progression through Parliament at the earliest opportunity.”
An estimated 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced a threat to share intimate images, with more than 28,000 reports of disclosing private sexual images without consent recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.
The package of reforms follows growing global concerns around the abuse of new technology, including the increased prevalence of deepfakes. These typically involve the use of editing software to make and share fake images or videos of a person without their consent, which are often pornographic in nature.
A website that virtually strips women naked received 38 million hits in the first eight months of 2021.
The government will take forward several of the Law Commission’s recommendations to ensure legislation keeps pace with technology and can effectively tackle emerging forms of abuse.
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