No, it’s not April Fools’ Day. You couldn’t make this s*** up. A piece in today’s Times, Sharing deepfake images ‘must be made a crime’:
Sharing “deepfake” images should be a crime, according to experts who fear that the law is not keeping pace with technology and behaviour online.
Today the Law Commission will tell ministers that expansion of criminal offences is needed to stop embarrassing images being posted without consent.
The commission, which advises on legislative reform, says that the law needs to cover “downblousing”, described as the taking of an image, usually from above, of an unwitting female subject, and the electronic distribution of altered intimate images, broadly known as deepfakes.
The commissioners also want a specific crime of threatening to post intimate images online, and for automatic anonymity for all victims.
Two years ago the first prosecutions were recorded for upskirting, taking photographs of female victims from below, after it was banned under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019.
Suspects can be tried either by magistrates or before a jury at crown court and face a jail sentence of up to two years. The most serious cases can result in people being placed on the sex offenders register.
Today the Law Commission is calling for downblousing to be put on the same legal footing as upskirting.
In its proposals, the commission says that “the law has not kept up with this behaviour, resulting in significant gaps that have left victims unprotected”.
The report highlights “inconsistency” over the type of images, that are banned by the law. “Upskirting is currently a criminal offence but downblousing is not,” the commission’s report says, adding that “sharing an altered image, usually involving adding someone’s head to a pornographic image, is also not covered”.
The commission also says that there is confusion over an offender’s motivation. It says that sexual gratification and causing distress are covered under the law, but “sharing the images as a joke or to coerce an individual are not”.
Experts were also concerned that threats to share “are not adequately covered, especially when a threat was made to humiliate, coerce, control or distress an individual”.
Gina Martin, 26, from London, who campaigned for the upskirting law after she fell victim to it at a music festival, said that she had spoken to victims of deepfake image posting. “Like me, they felt that their experience either wasn’t understood, captured adequately in law or taken as seriously as it should be by the authorities,” she said.
Six years ago Julia Mulligan, of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, launched a campaign called No More Naming, which highlighted the issue of non-consensual intimate images being posted online.
She welcomed the Law Commission’s proposals, and said: “Changing the law will mean the system no longer causes pain and distress to those who it should be protecting. It will support victims not stigmatise them.”
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