EU parliament event to discuss AI and gender-based violence
Credit: Bumble

Earlier this week, our team travelled to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament on the topic of AI & gender-based violence.

On Wednesday 12 April, Dr Ann Kristin Glenster and Jeremy Hughes joined Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Commission, alongside industry and civil society groups in Brussels to discuss the European Commission’s landmark proposal for a Directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

This Directive presents a unique opportunity to create strong EU-wide standards to better protect women in the EU online, and end systematic forms of gender-based violence. This event raised awareness on new forms of online violence, and discussed how to best strengthen the Commission proposal.

We were pleased to welcome this Directive. Over the last year, our team led a programme of engagement with parliamentarians, academia, civil society and industry on the topic of AI-enabled intimate image abuse in the UK. This event at the European Parliament was therefore a great opportunity to examine how EU-wide legislation is developing that tackles forms of online abuse. 

Our work in the UK explored what legislation and industry interventions are required to tackle the issue. AI-enabled intimate image abuse is a global phenomenon. The landscape is moving incredibly fast with code-free technology becoming increasingly accessible. 

AI-enabled intimate image abuse occurs when harm is caused by the creation and distribution of AI-generated non-consensual intimate images. The definition of ‘intimate image’ can differ significantly in some communities and does not only refer to sexual imagery.

Today, the average person can use code-free technology with no experience necessary to create images. Through this, we are seeing the democratisation of the ability to cause harm. The technical barriers to entry are now low, and we are seeing synthetically-altered images (“deepfakes”) that are increasingly realistic.

One of the recommendations drawn from our UK programme was for AI-enabled intimate image abuse to be seen through a gendered lens, taking into consideration different cultural contexts, especially how it affects women. Therefore seeing legislative interventions develop through this particular Directive to combat violence against women is particularly welcome.