Government to Criminalise the Creation of Synthetic Sexual Content

Government to Criminalise the Creation of Synthetic Sexual Content

The UK government has announced new legislation to protect individuals affected by intimate image abuse, by criminalising the creation of synthetic sexual content, or 'deepfake' images. The updated amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill will see anyone found guilty of maliciously creating synthetic sexual content without consent facing a criminal record and unlimited fines.

The legislation will affect anyone who has been found to have created a sexually explicit image of an adult without consent and with the intent to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation to the person affected, regardless of whether they intended to share the image.

The latest changes follow closely behind legislation that has been implemented with the Online Safety Act, which made the sharing of synthetic sexual content without consent a criminal offence. The updates to the Criminal Justice Bill to include the creation of synthetic sexual imagery will mean that anyone found to have created and shared intimate images non-consensually could be charged with two offences, resulting in an increased sentence.

Criminal Justice Bill

The latest amendments are part of a series of new laws being created within the Criminal Justice Bill to offer protections for those affected by intimate image abuse. The amendments aim to create new criminal offences around taking and recording intimate images without consent.

The proposed legislation will expand on existing upskirting laws, making it a criminal offence to take an intimate image without consent or a reasonable belief of consent in line with recent amendments to the Online Safety Act. Whilst the amendments around the taking of images without consent will not require an intent to cause distress to prosecute successfully, experts have raised concerns about needing to evidence an intent to cause distress motive for synthetically created intimate images. Sophie Mortimer, Revenge Porn Helpline Manager, states:

I am pleased to see this latest move by the government to address the disturbing rise in the creation of synthetic sexual content. As technology continues to advance and new forms of online harm emerge, it is essential that we address these concerns efficiently and effectively.

Whilst the latest amendment is an improvement, the limitations of this legislation and the decision to include an “intent to cause distress” clause will restrict its potential and make it difficult to evidence, charge, or successfully prosecute perpetrators for an act that is often made without the individual's knowledge or consent.

The inclusion of an ‘intent to cause distress’ clause, when the same clause has only recently been removed from similar legislation due to its limitations, fails to acknowledge the many motives behind creating synthetic sexual content. Concerningly, this heightens the risk of loopholes being found within the law to not being able to prosecute perpetrators.

Synthetic Sexual Content

The legislation comes at a time when concerns around the development of synthetic content have grown substantially, with the government stating that content is “being viewed millions of times a month across the world.” Synthetic sexual content can include any intimate image or video where the face or voice has been changed to replace the likeness of one person with another. It is currently unclear whether the amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill will include synthetic sexual content created by nudification or face-swap apps.

Alongside the latest amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be implemented across England and Wales, laws around the non-consensual sharing of synthetic sexual content vary across the United Kingdom. Currently, it is against the law in England, Wales, and Scotland to share or threaten to share a synthetically created or manufactured intimate image without consent.

Support for Intimate Image Abuse

If you’re an adult in the UK who has experienced intimate image abuse, contact the Revenge Porn Helpline at 0345 6000 459 or Visit the Revenge Porn Helpline for more information. can be used by any adult over the age of 18 who wants to protect their intimate images from being shared, including synthetic sexual content, on participating platforms.

Back to Magazine

Related Articles