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EU set to criminalize non-consensual intimate deep fakes

Deepfakes, cyberstalking, and more under the EU’s radar in a groundbreaking proposal to protect women online and offline.

The European Parliament and Council have reached an agreement on a proposal to criminalize physical violence, as well as psychological, economic, and sexual violence against women across the EU, both offline and online. The proposal criminalizes cyber violence, including the non-consensual sharing of intimate images (including deepfakes), cyber-stalking, cyber-harassment, misogynistic hate speech, and “cyber-flashing”. The final law is pending adoption by the Council and European Parliament, and once adopted, it will put in place common rules on these offences and the penalties associated with them.

Notably, the regulation was first proposed by the European Commission in 2022, and the earlier version included the criminalization of the non-consensual production of intimate imagery. The 2022 regulation stated that deep fakes, where the material appreciably resembles an existing person, objects, places, or other entities or events, depicting sexual activities of another person, and would falsely appear to others to be authentic or truthful,” should be covered under the regulatory ambit.

The context of this regulation:

This proposed regulation was agreed upon soon after “sexually explicit deep fake images” of the popular singer circulated on the internet, especially on X (formerly Twitter). These images have also prompted action from US lawmakers ,with them rolling out a bill called DEFIANCE (Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits Act of 2024) that allows victims of AI-generated porn and deepfakes to sue for compensation.

EU’s strides in regulating deep fakes:

This isn’t the first time that the EU has stepped up to regulate deep fakes. On February 6, the same day that the proposal was agreed upon, the European Commission adopted a proposal to update its criminal law rules on child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. The updated rules expand on the definition of CSAM, (child sexual abuse material)  across European Union member states to include AI-generated CSAM or deepfakes.

In January this year, the European Parliament voted in favor of creating a new legal framework for the music streaming sector. Under this framework, platforms will be required to inform the listeners when the songs they are listening to are artificial intelligence (AI)-generated music and will also have to urge for deep fakes (that use identities, voices, and likenesses of artists without their consent) to be curbed.

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