The upskirting bill received government support earlier this week and will be introduced in parliament today, making it a criminal offence to take upskirt photos without someone's knowledge. Now, legal experts are calling for other forms of image-based sexual abuse to receive similar treatment and be added to the bill.
A law professor has argued that "deepfake" pornography should also be made a crime and added to an amended upskirting bill. Durham University's Clare McGlynn, an expert in the legal regulation of porn and image-based sexual abuse, said the upskirting bill was "a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive response to image-based sexual abuse."
She added the government risks missing the opportunity to tackle other similar problems raised by technology, and "future-proof" the legislation, if the bill becomes law too quickly. One issue she's calling on the Ministry of Justice to include in the bill is the production of "deepfake" pornographic images.
What is "deepfake" porn?
"Deepfake" porn is when a victim's face is digitally manipulated into explicit videos or images. The "trend" began with female celebrities – Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Gal Gadot, Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle and more have had their faces digitally added to porn – but it is becoming increasingly common online and potentially anyone's image can be used without their consent.
New software means perpetrators no longer need to have the budget of a Hollywood studio or be trained in digital manipulation. Some programmes use artificial intelligence (AI)-generated face-swap to easily add a person's face onto another person's body and the whole process can be completed on a smartphone.
Is anything being done to stop it?
Various websites and social media platforms have taken a stance against it in recent years. Twitter and Pornhub, the world's most popular free porn site, banned deepfake videos in February, describing it as nonconsensual porn, while the GIF-hosting service Gfycat also announced a ban that same month, describing the content as "objectionable"; gaming chat platform Discord banned it in January.
Reddit also closed down its primary subreddit dedicated to deepfake porn in early February, which had 90,000 users, saying it breaches their rules against "nonconsensual content or revenge porn"; but the site was criticised for being "late to the party" on the issue. Critics have also slammed Pornhub's ban as being ineffective, saying deepfake content is still rife across the platform.
What needs to happen next?
McGlynn said the upskirting bill could be easily extended to cover "images which have been altered too and clearly criminalise a practice that victims say they find incredibly distressing," reported the Guardian.
She said a new law introduced in New South Wales, Australia, last year against image-based sexual abuse could provide inspiration.