19th July 2023

Image-Based Abuse: Amendments to the Online Safety Bill to provide more protection for victims and greater consequences for perpetrators

By Sarah Daniel

The sharing of personal and intimate videos and images without consent has become easier than ever and, as a result, the challenge around how to ensure online safety has become a priority for law makers.

Public pressure, including campaigns led by Georgia Harrison (whose former partner Stephen Bear was convicted of image-based abuse offences against her and jailed for 21 months) and Dame Maria Miller MP (who campaigned for a change in the law after being contacted by one of her Basingstoke constituents who had been affected by ‘revenge porn’ being posted online), have highlighted the severity of these issues, prompting the Government to take action.

Amendments to the Online Safety Bill

The Online Safety Bill (“the Bill”) is designed to “help to protect people online and to make social media platforms responsible for their users’ safety”.

The amendments to the Bill currently working its way through the House of Lords, emphasise the importance of protecting individuals from image-based abuse and deepfake pornography. The key provisions of the amendments include:

  1. The Bill makes it easier to charge and convict someone for sharing intimate images without the subject’s consent by removing the need to prove the perpetrator’s intention to cause distress. The courts will have the power to impose custodial sentences of up to 2 years where it is possible to prove that the perpetrator intended to cause distress, alarm, humiliation or to obtain sexual gratification. Individuals who share an image for sexual gratification may also be placed on the sex offenders’ register.
  2. The Bill makes the sharing of deepfake pornography (where images or videos are digitally manipulated to look like someone else) without consent a criminal offence, punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

The amendments to the Bill are due to be voted on by MPs later this month before it becomes law, and represent a significant step forward in combatting image-based abuse and deepfake pornography through the criminal courts.

Victims of image-based abuse do have significant civil remedies available to them which can be pursued instead of or as well as making a criminal complaint.

We act for individuals facing intimate image-based abuse and are skilled at creating a bespoke strategy depending on the specific facts of the case.

Hamlins’ Media Disputes department is one of the largest and most successful Media Disputes teams in the UK and is widely recognised as an advisor of choice for both public and private figures seeking advice in relation to defamation, reputation management, pre-publication libel and privacy law.

If you would like to find out more about how Hamlins can help you, please get in touch.

Image-Based Abuse: Amendments to the Online Safety Bill to provide more protection for victims and greater consequences for perpetrators

Have a question? Contact Sarah

Have a question? Contact Sarah


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