Government wants to criminalize “downblousing” and sharing of pornographic deepfakes

Sharing “downblouse” images and pornographic “deepfakes” without consent will become criminal offenses, the government has announced.

A change to the Online Safety Act means police and prosecutors will have more powers to bring the “heinous” offenders to justice.

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

The Justice Department will also introduce legislation to combat the installation of devices such as hidden cameras to capture or record images of someone without their consent.

This also includes “downblousing” – in which photos are taken over a woman’s top.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We must do more to protect women and girls from people taking or manipulating intimate photographs in order to stalk or humiliate them.

Dominic Raab conflict
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (House of Commons/PA)

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

Figures show that around one in 14 adults in England and Wales has experienced a threat for sharing intimate images, with more than 28,000 reports of the disclosure of private sexual images without consent being recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.

The Justices Commission had called for the changes, saying crime had not kept up with technology and had not protected all victims while perpetrators had evaded justice.

Professor Penney Lewis of the Law Commission said: “Taking or sharing intimate images of an individual without their consent can cause permanent harm.

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

“A new set of crimes will capture a broader range of abusive behaviors and ensure more perpetrators of these deeply harmful acts are prosecuted.”

Nicole Jacobs
Nicole Jacobs (Home Office/PA)

Domestic Violence Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said: “I welcome these steps by the Government aimed at making victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their own homes.

“I am pleased with this commitment in the Online Safety Act and hope that it will continue to make its way through Parliament as soon as possible.”

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

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