Up to six months in prison for image-based abuse

Government announces amendments to Online Safety Bill to protect victims of ‘deepfakes’ and ‘revenge porn’, following campaign by Georgia Harrison and Dame Maria Miller MP.  

New measures announced today mean that abusers, predators and embittered ex-partners who share intimate images online without the consent of those depicted will face up to six months in jail.

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This is a serious and increasing problem. Research shows that one in seven women and one in nine men aged 18-34 have experienced threats to share intimate images, and more than 28,000 reports of disclosing private sexual images without consent were recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021. 

The current law requires prosecutors to prove that perpetrators shared sexual images or films with the intention of causing distress. Removing this requirement will make it easier to charge and convict someone who shares intimate images without consent. 

Where it can be proven that a perpetrator did intend to cause distress, alarm or humiliation, or to obtain sexual gratification, they could face two years in prison. Those found guilty of sharing the image for sexual gratification could also be placed on the sex offender register. 

The sharing of ‘deep fake’ intimate images will also be criminalised for the first time. These are explicit images or videos that have been digitally manipulated to look like someone else. There has been an increase in this kind of material in recent years: the government says one website that virtually strips women naked received 38m hits in just the first eight months of 2021. 

Georgia Harrison has led a successful campaign to change the law having herself been the victim of image-based abuse. She says: ‘The reforms to the law that has been passed today are going to go down in history as a turning point for generations to come and will bring peace of mind to so many victims who have reached out to me whilst also giving future victim’s the justice they deserve.  

‘I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me throughout this campaign and it just goes to show how amazing our country is that the government have reacted so quickly to push through these amendments.’ 

Last year, the Law Commission published a detailed report on the law relating to this kind of image abuse. Several of the Law Commission’s recommendations will be adopted by the government to ensure legislation keeps pace with technology and can effectively tackle emerging forms of abuse. 

Paul Scully, Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, says: ‘The Online Safety Bill will make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. These new laws set a global standard for bringing justice to those who share these images, protecting women and girls from this shocking abuse.’ 

In related news, regulator Ofcom has announced stricter thresholds for reporting network and information systems incidents.

Photo by David W. Meyer


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