UK Government Introduces Legislation Against AI-Generated Sexually Explicit Deepfakes

On Tuesday, the UK government unveiled a new law aimed at combating the proliferation of AI-generated sexually explicit deepfake images. While the legislation has yet to be ratified, it proposes harsh penalties, including prosecution and unlimited fines, for individuals involved in the creation of such content. Notably, offenders could face legal action even if they do not widely distribute the images but produce them with the explicit intention of causing distress to the victim. The government frames this law as a pivotal step in bolstering legal protections for women.

Background and Context

The emergence of deep learning image synthesis technology over the past decade has facilitated the creation of deceptive pornography through the manipulation of performers’ faces, a phenomenon commonly referred to as “deepfakes.” Initially centered around non-consensual pornographic content, the term “deepfake” has since expanded to encompass entirely fabricated images and videos generated from neural networks trained on individuals’ photos. This issue extends beyond the UK, as evidenced by recent incidents in the US, such as the distribution of deepfake nudes involving underage individuals.

UK Government’s Response

The UK Ministry of Justice outlines its commitment to combatting this issue, highlighting the severity of the proposed legislation. Under the new offense, individuals responsible for creating sexually explicit deepfakes without consent could face criminal charges and substantial fines. Moreover, if such content is subsequently shared, offenders may face imprisonment. The law aims to address not only the act of dissemination but also the creation of deepfakes with malicious intent, such as causing alarm, humiliation, or distress to the victim.

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Enforcement and Legal Framework

While the Online Safety Act previously addressed the dissemination of non-consensual deepfake images, this proposed law marks a significant milestone by criminalizing their creation. The government emphasizes the distinction between sharing and producing such content, asserting that existing laws cover the creation of sexual deepfakes involving minors. Additionally, authorities seek to reinforce current legislation by enabling charges for both creation and distribution, potentially leading to stricter penalties.

Government’s Standpoint and Ministerial Statement

Minister for Safeguarding Laura Farris MP underscores the government’s unwavering stance on this issue, condemning the creation of deepfake sexual images as immoral and criminal. She emphasizes that the proposed law sends a clear message that such actions are reprehensible, often reflecting misogynistic motives, and will not be tolerated.