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Deepfake porn ruins the lives of women. Now the law can finally forbid it


“Every time you do it, you have to relive it.”

Helen Death

Noelle Martin, who became an activist after discovering at 18 that she had been the victim of a fake pornography campaign, was later targeted by more elaborate deepfake porn campaign. The fact that fake porn and deepfake are inherently bogus doesn’t calm the volume of victim blame either.

This makes it difficult for politicians to understand the scale of the problem. Charlotte Laws, a longtime lawyer who successfully passed a law banning pornographic revenge in California (the second state to do so), says victims’ stories are key to generating political will. When revenge porn was seen as a non-issue, it brought in files “two inches thick” with cases of victims who had suffered tangible damage to their careers and personal lives, including her teenage daughter. When another teenage girl, Audrie Pott, took her own life in Northern California after nude photos of her were released without her consent, California lawmakers finally stepped in, sparking a wave of state laws in across the country. “These stories have to come out, because that’s what touches people,” Laws says. “This is what drives people to take action.”

However, the technology is difficult to regulate, in part because there are many legitimate uses of deepfakes in entertainment, satire and whistleblower protection. Already, previous deepfake bills introduced in the US Congress have been pushed back considerably because they were too broad.

“It’s about recovering power”

Here’s the good news: the tide seems to be changing. The UK Law Commission, an academic body that reviews laws and recommends reforms where necessary, is currently scanning those related to online abuse. He plans to publish draft recommendations in the coming weeks for public consultation. Campaigners hope this will finally expand the ban on revenge porn to include all forms of fake intimate images and videos. “I think it’s been a really in-depth exercise,” says Mortimer, who consulted with the commission to share victims’ stories anonymously. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

If the UK goes ahead with the ban, it would become the first country to do so, greasing the wheels for the US to follow suit. The US and UK often mirror each other because they have a similar common law structure, Mania says. And if the US acts, the EU probably will too.

Of course, there will still be major obstacles. One of the main differences between the US and the UK is the First Amendment: One of the biggest obstacles to passing a federal revenge porn ban is that it has been perceived as a violation of freedom of expression, explains Rebecca Delfino, professor of law at Loyola Marymount University. Charlotte Laws echoes this assessment. She has now worked with members of the United States Congress to introduce a bill to ban pornographic revenge three times, but all of those efforts have failed amid First Amendment concerns.



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