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Cyberflashing can soon become illegal in the UK


The upcoming Online Safety Bill will focus heavier on harassment and digital safety, potentially banning the distribution of unsolicited obscene images.

The bill has already undergone certain changes, according to the UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

"I don't think the bill in the form that it was, the draft form, would have been something that I would have wanted to take to parliament," Dorries said on the Commons digital committee, Politico reports.

Cyberflashing has become more prevalent in recent years, primarily targeting young women under 30, according to the report by British police. It can come in many forms on a variety of platforms: from dating apps to social media sites. Written evidence submitted by Professor Clare McGlynn classifies cyberflashing as a “non-consensual sexual conduct,” gendered in nature.

Earlier last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared a similar idea with MPs, suggesting that cyberflashing should be illegal.

The currently existing Sexual Offences Act in the UK prohibits exposure of genitals but does not explicitly state whether digital material is included in the legislation.

If passed, the new bill will force tech giants (likely including Facebook) to protect users from dangerous content, with severe penalties for rule violations. Compliance will be ensured by the country’s communications regulator, Ofcom.

Certain deepfakes might also become a part of the new rules

Deepfakes, which use AI technology to synthesize faces, could also be included in the legislation if used to create sexually explicit images of people, according to Dorries.

In 2020, the UCL report ranked deepfakes as the most concerning crime we are currently facing, suggesting that tackling it would be difficult, as detecting impersonation needs to take into account a variety of decentralized distribution pathways.

However, not everyone sees the technology behind deepfakes as an inherently bad development. Apart from conducting criminal activity, it can also be used in business marketing, the entertainment industry, and even movie production.

“I am convinced that the technology behind deepfakes is very new, so we should not judge it, per say. What we have to judge is its uses. This technology will bring positive innovations regardless of the fact that there is a dark side to it,” Giorgio Patrini, CEO and co-founder of Sensity, told CyberNews.

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