Downblousing and deepfake image making could mean three years in jail

Cyber crime - Seksan Mongkhonkhamsao/Moment
Cyber crime - Seksan Mongkhonkhamsao/Moment

Taking “downblousing” images of women and sharing pornographic “deepfakes” are to become new criminal offences with maximum jail sentences of at least two years.

The Government is to introduce a series of amendments to the Online Safety Bill to protect victims from abusers who take or share intimate images without their consent

The new laws will cover the installing or use of cameras for downblousing, where photos are taken down a woman’s top without consent, and criminalising the sharing of those images.

People who share so-called “deepfakes” – explicit images or videos which have been manipulated to look like someone without their consent – will also be criminalised.

Both offences are expected to carry maximum jail terms of two or three years.

Bring cowards to justice

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, said: “We must do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate photos in order to hound or humiliate them.

"Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and safeguard women and girls from such vile abuse.”

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, pledged to make downblousing a new offence during his Tory leadership campaign. Around one in 14 adults have experienced a threat to share intimate images. Between April 2015 and Dec 2021, more than 28,000 reports of disclosing private sexual images without consent were recorded by police.

Current legislation will be repealed and replaced with a new base offence of sharing an intimate image without consent. There will also be two more serious offences based on intent to cause humiliation, alarm or distress and for obtaining sexual gratification.

A further two offences will cover threatening to share and installing equipment to enable images to be taken. And non-consensual sharing of manufactured intimate images (more commonly known as deepfakes) will be criminalised.

Make victims and survivors safer

It follows similar moves to make “upskirting” and “breastfeeding voyeurism'' specific criminal offences, extending ‘revenge porn’ laws to capture threats to share such images, and using the Online Safety Bill to create an offence specifically targeting “cyberflashing”.

Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, said: “I welcome these moves by the Government which aim to make victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their own homes.

“I am pleased to see this commitment in the Online Safety Bill, and hope to see it continue its progression through Parliament at the earliest opportunity.”

Michelle Donelan, the Culture Secretary, said: "Through the Online Safety Bill, I am ensuring that tech firms will have to stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also upgrade criminal law to prevent appalling offences like cyberflashing.

"With these latest additions to the Bill, our laws will go even further to shield women and children, who are disproportionately affected, from this horrendous abuse once and for all."