Sharing deepfake porn without the consent of those depicted in it will become illegal in England and Wales, as part of the British government’s proposed Online Safety Bill.
Rapid improvements in deepfake technology in recent years have allowed popular porn sites such as MrDeepFakes to host realistic fake explicit content, often falsely depicting celebrities. Deepfake porn sharing becoming unlawful would mean that prosecutors wouldn’t need to prove that intent to cause harm was behind deepfake sharing, reported BBC News.
As well as being used to create fake porn images and video of celebrities, deepfake technology is often used to threaten and scam people. Criminals can demand money from people, usually women, saying they will release deepfake porn featuring them if they don’t comply. The Online Safety Bill, which returns to Parliament in December 2022, would theoretically make it easier to crack down on such activity.
UK justice secretary Dominic Raab said that the government was adapting to gaps in the law as technology changed. “We must give women and girls the confidence that the justice system is on their side and will really come down like a ton of bricks on those who abuse or intimidate them,” he said.
Other regions and countries have moved to crack down on deepfake porn, including Taiwan, which mulled seven-year prison sentences for deepfake porn crimes.
In October 2022 the BBC aired a documentary about MrDeepFakes, one of the most-visited porn deepfake sites in the world. The owner of the site argued that, morally, consent to share deepfake porn did not require the person’s agreement, because the content is “fantasy”.
Prof Penney Lewis of the Law Commission, which recommended new offences such as deepfake porn sharing be created, said: “Taking or sharing intimate images of a person without their consent can inflict lasting damage. We are pleased that the government will take forward our recommendations to strengthen the law.”
She added: “A new set of offences will capture a wider range of abusive behaviours, ensuring that more perpetrators of these deeply harmful acts face prosecution.”
While this particular addition to the bill isn’t so contentious, other aspects concerning the privacy of law abiding individuals has been more contentious.