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Legal 500, 2022

Government announces new laws criminalising intimate image abuse to better protect victims of digital exploitation

The Government announced on the 25 November 2022 a number of planned amendments to the Online Safety Bill that will expand the protections available for victims of intimate image abuse and target those who share so-called ‘deepfake’ images or videos.

The amendments are focused on cracking down on abusers who share intimate images and other related content without consent. The criminalising of offences such as the non-consensual sharing of images will bring the law up to date and establish better protection in law for the victims of crimes such as ‘upskirting’, ‘breastfeeding voyeurism’ and ‘cyberflashing’ more generally.

The growing concerns around the abuse of new technology, especially the rising prevalence of deepfakes has created global concern and has shown the law in its current form to be inadequate. The amendments come after a review by the Law Commission and campaigning led by groups such as Refuge, highlighted the very real need to better protect victims of these distressing forms of digital abuse.

It is widely acknowledged these forms of abuse disproportionately affect women and children but these changes to the law will give all victims much greater protection from a wide variety of digital exploitation.

The growing threat of deepfake videos is also covered by new laws. These characteristically use editing software to make and share fake images or videos of a person without their consent. They are often pornographic in nature but the risk they could be used for other broader criminal purposes is also a real concern.

The second day of the Report stage of the Online Safety bill is scheduled for 5 December 2022.

John Kelly a Partner in our Reputation protection team said “These are welcome changes which will add to existing laws. Deepfakes have been an increasing problem in recent years and the proposals will provide better protection for victims of such abuse.”

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