UK to criminalize unauthorized sharing of deepfake porn • TechCrunch

Brace yourself for another expansion of UK online safety law: the Department of Justice has announced legislative changes aimed at protecting victims of revenge porn, pornographic deepfakes and other abuses related to the making and sharing of intimate images without consent – ​​in a crackdown on a form of abuse that disproportionately affects women and girls.

The government says the latest amendment to the bill will broaden the scope of current harassment offenses – “so that more offenders will be prosecuted and potentially jailed”.

Other abusive behaviors that become explicitly illegal include “downblousing” (taking pictures of a women’s top without permission); and the installation of equipment, such as hidden cameras, to take or record images of someone without permission.

The government describes the proposed changes as a total package of measures to modernize legislation in this area.

It is also notable for being 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 deepfake porn generation and abuse, raising concerns about the harm associated with this type of AI-assisted technology.

Only this week, the To forget reported that the creator of the open source AI text-to-image generator Stable Diffusion modified the software to make it more difficult for users to generate nude and pornographic images – apparently capitalizing on the risk of using the generative AI technology to create pornographic images of child abuse material.

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

From revenge porn to deepfakes

While the UK has passed a law against income porn back in 2015 victims and campaigners warning for years that the regime is not working and is pushing for a reconsideration.

This has led to some targeted changes over the years. For example, the government made ‘upskirting’ illegal through a change in the law that came into effect in 2019. Marchit said “cyberflashing” would be added as a violation of incoming online safety legislation.

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

It acts 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 believes will lower the bar for successful prosecution, including a new predicate offense of sharing an intimate image without consent (i.e. in this case there is no requirement to intention to fear); along with two more serious offenses based on intent to cause humiliation, alarm or fear and for obtaining sexual gratification.

The planned changes will also lead to two specific offenses for threatening to share and installing equipment to enable photo taking; and criminalize the non-consensual sharing of fabricated intimate images (known as deepfakes).

The government says around 1 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.

It also points to the rise in abusive deepfake porn — pointing to an example of a website virtually stripping women naked that received 38 million hits 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 misuse of the technology emerged – such as this BBC report to one such site, called DeepSukebe, reported last year.

Commenting on the planned changes to a statement, Deputy Prime Minister and 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.

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

Under the government’s plan, the new deepfake porn offenses will require platforms and services subject to new online safety legislation to remove this type of material if it has been shared on their platforms without permission – at the risk of severe penalties, under the Online Safety Bill , if they do not remove illegal content.

Victims of revenge porn and other abuses of intimate footage have complained for years about the difficulty and disproportionate effort on their part to track down and report images shared online without their consent.

The ministers say that the proposed changes to UK law will improve protection for victims in this area.

In another supportive statement, DCMS Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan said:

Through the Online Safety Bill, I’m making sure technology companies stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we’ll also improve criminal justice to prevent horrendous offenses 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.

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

The government has denied that this delay will derail the bill’s passage through parliament, but there is no doubt that parliamentary time is tight. So it’s unclear when (or even if) the Bill will actually become UK law, as there are only about two years left before a general election is due.

In addition, parliamentary time must be found to make the necessary amendments to UK law on the misuse of intimate imagery.

The government has so far not offered a timetable for that part – saying only that it will propose this package of amendments “as soon as parliamentary time permits”, adding that it will announce further details “in due course”.

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