Written evidence submitted by Professor Clare McGlynn, Durham Law School, Durham University (OSB0014)


Key Omissions from the Bill

Contested issues – regulation enhances free speech

Comparisons with legislation across the world show weak powers to protect victims in UK Bill

Content of this Submission



Professor Clare McGlynn is an expert on laws relating to sexual violence, pornography and image-based sexual abuse, including ‘revenge porn’, ‘upskirting’ and cyberflashing. She has played a key role in shaping new criminal laws on intimate image abuse and extreme pornography, giving evidence before select committees of the Scottish and UK Parliaments. She has advised politicians across all the main political parties on potential law reforms, with her recommendations being debated in Parliament and used by many voluntary organisations in their campaigns. She has addressed policy audiences across Europe, Australia, Korea and the US, as well as working with social media companies including Facebook, Google and TikTok to develop their policies. She is a co-author of the recently published books Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws (2021) and Image-Based Sexual Abuse: a study on the causes and consequences of non-consensual imagery (2021).


Specific Responses to Call for Evidence Questions

No. The UK proposals fail to match the victim-focused powers of the Australian eSafety Commission and New Zealand’s Netsafe.

Current proposals therefore are not world-leading, in fact they provide fewer powers to the regulator than comparator countries, particularly to ensure material is taken-down swiftly.

No. The Bill fails to take sufficient account of the prevalence of sexually violent pornography freely and easily available online. See research evidence below. The Bill also fails to put in place sufficient measures to hold online porn companies to account for the material on their websites. The regulator does not have sufficient powers to require porn companies to remove unlawful and harmful material.

No. The Bill must specifically recognise the gendered nature of much online abuse, and the intersectional nature of experiences with black and minoritised women particularly affected. See recommendations to require a Code of Practice regarding online violence against women and girls. 

The draft Bill is not as comprehensive and effective as legislation in Australia and New Zealand where regulators have specific powers to order removal of harmful online content and to initiate civil action against perpetrators or online abuse. These countries have far more effective powers. Far swifter action can be taken in respect of harmful content, rather than watching, waiting and hoping that companies will act as required in codes of practice.

Not a threat to freedom of expression. Regulation of expression is vital to ensure that there is freedom of speech for all. See comments and references below to regulation being human rights enhancing and ensuring the freedom of speech of women whose speech is currently limited by the extent and nature of online abuse.

Content in Scope

Sexually violent and unlawful pornography is freely and easily available on the most popular – free and easily accessible – porn websites in the UK. It is essential this content is clearly covered and that porn companies cannot remove themselves from regulation simply by limiting user interaction.

See evidence submission below with further details.

Some forms of online abuse are not currently unlawful, including cyberflashing – the sending of penis images to someone without their consent. Sharing deepfake and fakeporn without consent is also not criminalised. These behaviours should be criminalised and therefore made clearly unlawful so that they are adequately covered by the Bill.

See evidence submission below with further details.

Regulation enhances freedom of speech


Sexually Violent Content on Mainstream Pornography Websites: additional powers required for Ofcom to ensure removal of content


-         New research reveals extent of sexually violent material on the most popular mainstream porn sites in the UK

-         Research focussed on landing pages of websites – the material promoted to a first-time user including young teenagers. The porn companies are actively choosing to showcase this material to new users.

-         This material available is in direct contravention of their own Terms & Conditions, showing that monitoring content of T&C alone will not prevent harm and should not be enough to satisfy any duty of care.

-         This research emphasises the need to ensure porn companies are within scope of Online Safety Bill and are pro-actively held to account.

-         Greater powers must be given to Ofcom to ensure swift take-down of unlawful and non-consensual material and penalties for delays.

-         Introduce new offence criminalising the making of false representations of consent from those included in images/videos when uploading material to commercial web and porn sites, as recommended by the End Violence Against Women coalition and victim support organisations.

-         The titles of videos linked to below are examples of titles used on the most popular porn websites that are free to view and very easy to access for anyone and everyone. Censoring them would be ironic as these cites are viewed by millions everyday, including very young teenagers. It is the reality of today’s internet and free, easily accessible pornography.

Evidence base - new 2021 research

Key findings

Impacts of sexually violent porn

Online Abuse and need for Code of Practice on Violence Against Women and Girls: how and why technology is changing violence against women and girls


Online abuse impacts on every aspect of women’s lives both offline and online:

Online activities are integral to our daily lives online and offline:

Online abuse silences victims and locks them out of citizenship

Technology is changing the nature of impacts of online abuse due to constancy and permanency of internet:

Technology changing why abuse is perpetrated:

Technology is changing how the abuse is perpetrated:

Online abuse against women and girls is growing and pervasive:

Younger women and black and minoritised women particularly affected:

Significant and life-threatening nature of online harms, often causing ‘social rupture’:

Action required


Strengthening individual protections against online abuse


Include New Criminal Law on Cyberflashing (sending penis images without consent)


Evidence base:

This evidence draws on my recently published book Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws (2021) with Dr Kelly Johnson which is the most comprehensive study of cyberflashing internationally to date. It details the nature and extent of cyberflashing, as well as providing detailed recommendations for law reform. A summary of the research findings and recommendations is available here: cyberflashing-policy-briefing-final.pdf (bristoluniversitypress.co.uk)

How common is cyberflashing?

Different types of cyberflashing

Multiple, Over-Lapping Motivations for Cyberflashing

Potentially Significant Harms of Cyberflashing

The law is currently failing victim-survivors of cyberflashing in England and Wales

Cyberflashing Key Recommendations

Reforming the criminal law:

Beyond creating a cyberflashing offence:

Improve laws on image-based sexual abuse (taking & sharing intimate images without consent)


Deepfakes and fakeporn is a growing and harmful problem

Reforming law to criminalise distribution of fakeporn/deepfakes without consent:

Evidence base for submission

This evidence draws on my extensive empirical and legal research conducted with colleagues across the UK, Australia and New Zealand, including:

What is intimate image abuse?

How common is image-based sexual abuse?

Multiple motivations for offending

Potentially significant harms of image-based sexual abuse

Interconnected experiences of image-based sexual abuse

Failing criminal justice responses to image-based sexual abuse

Current outdated, confusing, piecemeal law in England and Wales

Supporting victim-survivors and image-based sexual abuse prevention urgently required

Image-based Sexual Abuse Key Recommendations

Comprehensive criminal law reform urgently required

Introduce new statutory civil offence and civil orders

        prohibiting the offender from distributing the intimate image.

        Requiring offender to delete any images.

        requiring the offender to take down or disable access to an intimate image

        requiring the provider and/or end user of a social media service, relevant electronic service or designated internet service to remove an intimate image from the service

        requiring a hosting service provider who hosts an intimate image to cease hosting the image.

Support victim-survivors to reclaim control

Effective and resourced training, education and guidance




Amnesty International. 2018. Toxic Twitter. Amnesty International. www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/ online-violence-against-women-chapter-1/

Gallagher, Sophie. (2020) ‘”The tip of the iceberg”: Cyber-flashing on trains “largely unreported” despite huge rise in incidents’, The Independent, 18 February, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/cyber-flashing-incidents-number-2020-a9341676.html

Glitch UK and EVAW. (2020) ‘The Ripple Effect: COVID-19 and the Epidemic of Online Abuse’, September, https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Glitch-and-EVAW-The-Ripple-Effect-Online-abuse-during-COVID-19-Sept-2020.pdf

Henry, Nicola., McGlynn, Clare., Flynn, Asher., Johnson, Kelly., Powell, Anastasia., and Scott, Adrian. (2020) Image-based Sexual Abuse: a study on the causes and consequences of non-consensual nude or sexual imagery, London: Routledge.

Imkaan and EVAW. (2016) ‘Powerful new film- Black women speak out about racist sexual harassment’, https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/powerful-new-film-black-women-speak-out-about-racist-sexual-harassment/

McGlynn, Clare and Johnson, Kelly (2021) Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws (Bristol University Press).

Plan International. 2020. Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment. Surrey, UK: Plan International. https://plan-international. org/publications/freetobeonline

Ringrose, et al (2021) ‘Teen Girls’ Negotiating the Ubiquitous Dick Pic: sexual double standards and the normalization of image-based sexual harassment’ Sex Roles https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-021-01236-3

Thiara, Ravi., Roy, Sumanta. (2020) Reclaiming Voice, London: Imkaan.

Vera-Gray, F, McGlynn C et al (2021) Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography British Journal of Criminology


September 2021


Professor Clare McGlynn, Durham University, September 2021