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UK to criminalize deepfake porn sharing without consent • TechCrunch


Prepare for a further expansion of the UK’s Online Safety Bill: The Department of Justice has announced changes to the law to protect victims of revenge porn, deepfake porn and more abuse related to the taking and sharing of intimate images without consent – ​​in a crackdown on a type 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 are prosecuted and potentially imprisoned”.

Other abusive behaviors that will become explicitly illegal include “downblousing” (when photographs are removed from a woman’s top without her consent); and the installation of equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record images of a person without their consent.

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

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

Increasingly accessible and powerful image and video-generating AIs have led to an increase in the generation and abuse of deepfake porn, raising concerns about the harms associated with this type of AI-enabled technology.

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

But that’s just one example. Many other tools for generating pornographic deepfakes remain available.

From revenge porn to deepfakes

While the UK passed a law against paid pornography in 2015, victims and activists have been warning for years that the scheme is not working and pushing for it to be overhauled.

This has led to targeted changes over the years. For example, the government made ‘upskirting’ illegal via a change to the law that came into force in 2019. While in March it said ‘cyberflashing’ would be added as an offense under new security legislation. on line.

However, he has now decided that further changes are needed to expand and clarify the intimate image offenses to make it easier for police and prosecutors to prosecute and to ensure the legislation keeps pace with technology.

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

This includes repealing and replacing current legislation with new offenses that the government says will lower the bar for successful prosecutions, including a new core offense of sharing an intimate image without consent (so in this case, proof of intent to cause distress will not be required); as well as 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 installing equipment to take images; and criminalize the non-consensual sharing of fabricated intimate images (i.e. deepfakes).

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

He also points to the rise in abusive deepfake pornography – noting an example of a website that practically strips women naked and receives 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 nudify women since the misuse of the technology emerged – as reported in this report by the BBC 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 harass or humiliate them.

Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and protect women and girls from such despicable abuses.

Under the government’s plan, new deepfake porn offenses will place a legal obligation on platforms and services that fall under upcoming online safety legislation to remove such material if it has been shared on their platforms without consent – ​​with the risk of serious penalties, under the Online Safety Bill, if they fail to remove illegal content.

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

Ministers say proposed changes to UK law will improve protection for victims in this area.

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

Through the Online Safety Bill, I am ensuring that tech companies will have to stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also improve criminal law to prevent horrendous offenses like 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 horrific abuse once and for all.

One point to note is that the Online Safety Bill remains on hold while the government works to draft amendments related to another aspect of the legislation.

The government has denied that the delay would derail the Bill’s passage through Parliament – but there is no doubt that parliamentary time is tight. It is therefore unclear when (or even if) the bill will become UK law, given that there are only around two years left before a general election is called.

In addition, parliamentary time must also be found to make the necessary changes to the UK’s misuse of intimate images law.

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


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