Government to criminalise ‘downblousing’ and sharing of pornographic deepfakes

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Sharing pornographic ‘downblouse’ images and ‘deepfakes’ without consent will be a crime, the government has announced.

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

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

The Department of Justice will also propose laws to combat 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 of 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 stalk 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 abuse.”

Figures show around one 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.

The Law Commission had called for the changes, saying criminal offenses had failed to keep pace with technology and had failed to protect all victims, while perpetrators escaped justice.

Professor Penney Lewis, from the Law Commission, said: “Taking or sharing intimate images of someone without their consent can inflict lasting harm.

“We are pleased that the government is acting on our recommendations to strengthen the law.

“A new set of offenses will cover a wider range of abusive behavior, ensuring that more perpetrators of these deeply harmful acts are prosecuted.”

Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said: “I welcome these steps by the Government which aim to make victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their homes.

“I am delighted to see this commitment in the Online Safety Bill and hope to see it continue its progress through Parliament as soon as possible.”

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Through the Online Safety Bill, I am making sure 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.”

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