New Protection from online sexual behaviour as Cyberflashing laws come into force

As of 31st January 2024, The Online Safety Act has brought into force laws criminalising behaviour known as Cyberflashing. Such an offence may be committed in circumstances where an individual sends an unsolicited or unwanted sexual or nude image to the victim either by way of social media or dating apps, or even to a stranger via data sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop; something which is increasingly common on public transport. Prosecutions will be brought in cases where the offender intended the recipient of the image to feel alarmed, distressed or humiliated, or whether the image was sent purely for the offender’s own sexual gratification. Anyone convicted of such an offence could not only face up to 2yrs in prison, but could also find themselves on the Sex Offenders Register.

In addition to Cyberflashing, The Online Safety Act will also criminalise “downblousing”, just as “upskirting” as previously been made an offence. It will also toughen up laws in relation to the sharing of intimate images or “revenge porn” and will make it a criminal offence to disclose private sexual images without consent, regardless of whether the offender intended the victim to be caused alarm, distress or humiliation. The mere threat of disclosing private sexual images could also amount to an offence.

Finally, individuals who share “deepfakes” or manipulated or computerised images of the victim online could also face prosecution.