Government criminalizes ‘downblousing’ and sharing pornographic deepfakes


Distributing “downblouse” images and pornographic “deepfakes” without permission will be a criminal offence, the government has announced.

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

Those who share “deepfakes” — explicit images or videos manipulated to look like someone without their consent — could be imprisoned under the proposed changes.

The Justice Department is also introducing laws to address the installation of equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record photos of someone without permission.

This includes “downblousing” – taking pictures of a woman’s top.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: “We need to do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate photos to harass or humiliate them.

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

Figures show that around one in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced a threat to share intimate images, with more than 28,000 reports of unauthorized disclosure of private sexual images recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.

The Law Commission had called for the changes, saying criminal offenses had not kept pace with technology and failed to protect all victims, while perpetrators evaded justice.

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

“We are pleased that the government will follow our recommendations to strengthen the law.

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

Nicole Jacobs, Commissioner for Domestic Violence, said: “I welcome these steps by the government that aim to make victims and survivors safer online, on the street and in their own homes.

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“I am delighted to see this commitment in the Online Safety Act and hope it will be passed by Parliament as soon as possible.”

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Through the Online Safety Act, I am making sure tech companies have to stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also improve criminal justice to prevent heinous crimes like cyberflashing.

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



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