Government to criminalise ‘downblousing’ and sharing of pornographic deepfakes

An amendment to the Online Safety Bill means police and prosecutors will be given more power to bring “vile” abusers to justice.

Government to criminalise ‘downblousing’ and sharing of pornographic deepfakes

Sharing “downblouse” images and pornographic “deepfakes” without consent will be made crimes in England and Wales, the Government has announced.

An amendment to the Online Safety Bill means police and prosecutors will be given more power to bring the “vile” abusers to justice.

Those who share “deepfakes” – explicit images or videos which have been manipulated to look like someone without their consent- could be jailed under the proposed changes.

The Ministry of Justice will also bring forward laws to tackle the installation of equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record images of someone without their consent.

This will include “downblousing” – where photos are taken down a woman’s top.

Justice Secretary 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.

Dominic Raab conflict
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (House of Commons/PA)

Figures show around one 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 Law Commission had called for the changes, saying criminal offences had not kept pace with technology and failed to protect all victims, while perpetrators evaded justice.

Professor Penney Lewis, of the Law Commission, said: “Taking or sharing intimate images of a person without their consent can inflict lasting damage.

“We are pleased that the Government will take forward our recommendations to strengthen the law.

“A new set of offences will capture a wider range of abusive behaviours, ensuring that more perpetrators of these deeply harmful acts face prosecution.”

Nicole Jacobs
Nicole Jacobs (Home Office/PA)

“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.”

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Through the Online Safety Bill, I am ensuring that tech firms will have to stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also upgrade criminal law to prevent appalling offences like cyberflashing.

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

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