United-Kingdom

Downblousing and deepfake image making could mean three years in jail

Taking “shattering” images of women and sharing “deepfake” porn will become new criminal offenses with a maximum prison sentence of at least two years.

The government will introduce a series of amendments to the Online Safety Bill to protect victims from abusers who take or share intimate photos without their consent.

The new laws will cover the installation or use of cameras for downblousing, in which images are removed from a woman’s top without her consent, and the criminalization of sharing those images.

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People who share so-called “deepfakes” – explicit photos or videos that have been manipulated to look like a person without their consent – will also be criminalized.

Both offenses are expected to carry a prison sentence of two or three years.

Bring cowards to justice

Dominic Raab, the Minister for Justice, said: “We must do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate images 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 despicable abuse.”

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, has pledged to make downblousing a new offense during his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. About one in 14 adults is at risk of sharing intimate photos. Between April 2015 and December 2021, more than 28,000 reports of disclosure of private sexual images without consent were recorded by the police.

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Existing legislation will be repealed and replaced with a new core offense of sharing an intimate image without consent. There would also be two more serious offenses based on the intent to cause humiliation, panic, or distress and to obtain sexual gratification.

Two other offenses will cover threatening to share and install equipment to enable the taking of photographs. The non-consensual sharing of manufactured intimate images (more commonly known as deepfakes) will be criminalised.

Making victims and survivors safer

It follows similar moves to make specific criminal offenses of “voyeurism” and “breastfeeding,” expand “revenge porn” laws to capture threats to share such images, and use the Online Safety Act to create a crime specifically targeting “internet flash.”

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

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“I am delighted to see this commitment in the Online Safety Act, and hope to see it continue its progression through Parliament at the earliest opportunity.”

Michelle Donnellan, Minister for Culture, said: “With the Online Safety Act I am ensuring that tech companies will have to stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also upgrade criminal law to prevent horrific crimes such as cyberstalking.

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

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