The Memo: Sexually explicit deepfakes to become a criminal offence in the UK

Group 723.png

Sexually explicit deepfakes to become a criminal offence in the UK

Erin Bradbury - 29 April 2024

Just over a year agoviolence against women and girls was announced as a national threat. Now, it is included within the strategic policing requirement (SPR) which covers terrorism, serious and organised crime, and child sexual abuse. This re-classification means that the police must prioritise its response to it and, by extensionmust also focus on image-based abuse such as deepfakes. Deepfakes are images or videos which have been altered digitally, often with the help of AI to replace the face of one person with another. A report by AI research company, DeepTracehas found that non-consensual pornography constitutes a whopping 96% of all deepfakes found online, with 99.9% depicting women.  

In a continued effort to better protect women, the government recently announced that making a sexually explicit ‘deepfake’ image will be a new offence and will see those convicted face criminal prosecution and an unlimited fine. The Online Safety Act introduced last year had already criminalized the sharing of such imagery, but this legislation will address those who create it. Creating the imagery even without the intent to share it but with the aim of causing hurt, humiliation or distress to the victim will be an offence under this new billThat means that those who both create and share such images could end up with two separate charges, with a possible prison sentence if the image is spread to a wider audience. However, there are concerns over the limitations of the bill, as convictions will rely on proof that the person who produced the image intended to cause distress. As the Minister of Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris, has stated: This new offence sends a crystal clear message that making this material is immoral, often misogynistic, and a crime.”

As of now, the bill, which is set to be introduced as an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, is currently making its way through Parliament and is at the report stage in the House of Commons. The government is seeking to introduce further criminal offences with this new billsuch as taking or recording intimate images without consent or installing equipment that enables such action.