The UK government is inviting feedback on how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality are impacting the adult entertainment industry. This request is part of the Pornography Review, which was initiated in July 2023 to examine the prevalence and effects of child sexual abuse material and illegal pornography online. While the review’s main focus is on the broader pornography industry, it will also address concerns about AI-generated sexually explicit images without consent. The review builds upon the Online Safety Act, which mandates online platforms to verify users’ ages and implement tools that estimate ages digitally to prevent children from accessing legal adult content. As part of this process, the government is seeking input from adult content creators, parents, and law enforcement agencies to develop recommendations. Respondents will be asked to provide their thoughts on how AI and virtual reality have changed the production, accessibility, and consumption of pornography, as well as how these changes impact viewers and the industry. The goal is to engage with all stakeholders involved in the pornography industry and ensure the public’s views on existing regulations are considered, ultimately future-proofing the law amidst rapid technological advancements. The call for evidence will be open until March 7, 2024.
In October 2023, Wired reported on independent research that revealed a 54% increase in non-consensual AI-generated videos and images on the 35 most popular deepfake porn sites between 2022 and the first nine months of 2023. AI firm Deeptrace conducted separate research in 2019, which found that non-consensual pornography accounted for 96% of all deepfake videos available online. Sonia Livingstone, director of the London School of Economics’ Digital Futures for Children research centre, expressed concern over the lack of emphasis on academic research in the review. She emphasized the need to incorporate existing evidence gathered by researchers and urged the review to explore the porn industry’s business models and the use of algorithms to promote content. Livingstone also questioned the novelty of the proposals put forward in the review.
The Online Safety Act already mandates platforms to identify and remove illegal content, including child sexual abuse material and revenge porn. The government’s consultation document for the Pornography Review outlines key questions for respondents, such as identifying any gaps in the regulation of online pornography and evaluating the effectiveness of current regulations. The goal of the review is to investigate regulatory gaps that enable exploitation and abuse online and identify obstacles to enforcing criminal laws. It aims to ensure consistency across regulations for both online and offline commercial pornographic material.