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UK makes creating sexually explicit deepfakes without consent a crime

Deepfakes are digitally altered videos and images made to look highly realistic, often without the subject’s knowledge or consent.

Deepfakes are digitally altered videos and images made to look highly realistic, often without the subject’s knowledge or consent. (Representative image from iStock)

By: Vivek Mishra

The UK government on Tuesday announced that the creation of sexually explicit deepfake images without consent will be criminalised under a new law currently moving through Parliament.

Deepfakes are digitally altered videos and images made to look highly realistic, often without the subject’s knowledge or consent.

Individuals who engage in creating these unauthorised images will face criminal charges, which could include an unlimited fine. If the deepfake content is then shared more widely, offenders could be sent to jail.

UK Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris, condemned the act of creating deepfake sexual images. “The creation of deepfake sexual images is despicable and completely unacceptable irrespective of whether the image is shared,” Farris said.

“It is another example of ways in which certain people seek to degrade and dehumanise others – especially women. And it has the capacity to cause catastrophic consequences if the material is shared more widely. This government will not tolerate it. This new offence sends a crystal-clear message that making this material is immoral, often misogynistic, and a crime,” she added.

This new legislative move builds upon last year’s reforms to the UK’s Online Safety Act, which for the first time criminalised the sharing of “deepfake” intimate images.

The proposed offence, to be added through an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, will make it possible to prosecute anyone who maliciously creates sexually explicit deepfake images of adults without consent. This comes in addition to existing protections against such behaviour involving images of children under the age of 18.

The Ministry of Justice stated that the Bill also introduces several other criminal offences aimed at punishing unauthorised recording or distribution of intimate images, as well as the unauthorised installation of recording devices.

The government has also reclassified violence against women and girls as a national threat, meaning the country’s police must prioritise their response to it, just as they do with threats like terrorism.

Under the Bill, a new statutory aggravating factor will be brought in for offenders who cause death through abusive, degrading or dangerous sexual behaviour – or so-called “rough sex”, often used as a defence in such legal cases.

A new statutory aggravating factor for bitter former partners who murder at the end of a relationship is also part of reforms following recommendations made in the Domestic Homicide Sentencing Review three years ago.

(PTI)

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