Facebook Is Asking For Users’ Nude Photos To Fight Revenge Porn

Facebook has devised a new strategy for combating revenge porn: It wants to see your nudes first, before an abuser has the chance to spread them.

As part of a new feature the social network is testing in Australia, users are being asked to upload explicit photos of themselves before they send them to anyone else, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The Guardian reports that the images sent to Facebook would be turned into a “unique digital footprint” in order to prevent efforts by another user to upload the same photo.

“Revenge porn” refers to the practice of sharing a former partner’s nude photos in a vengeful manner. Facebook’s pilot program will begin in Australia.

This is how the new feature works. First, you upload an explicit image of yourself to Facebook Messenger (you can do so by starting a conversation with yourself). Then, you flag it as a “non-consensual intimate image” for Facebook.

The social network then builds what is referred to as a “hash” of the image, meaning it creates a unique fingerprint for the file. Facebook says it is not storing the photos, just the hashes of the photos. If another user tries to upload the same image on Facebook or Instagram, Facebook will test it against its stored hashes, and stop those labeled as revenge porn from being distributed.

Carrie Goldberg, a New York-based lawyer who specializes in sexual privacy, told The Guardian: “We are delighted that Facebook is helping solve this problem – one faced not only by victims of actual revenge porn but also individuals with worries of imminently becoming victims.

“With its billions of users, Facebook is one place where many offenders aggress because they can maximize the harm by broadcasting the nonconsensual porn to those most close to the victim. So this is impactful.”

Facebook’s new anti-revenge porn feature follows a similar one it instituted in April. If you report an image as revenge porn when you come across it on Facebook or Instagram, the social network’s moderators will tag the image using photo-matching technology in an attempt to keep it from spreading. Facebook says it disables the account of whoever shared the image in the first place, “in most cases.”

Facebook is teaming up with the Australian government to roll out the new feature. Users can file a report with the government’s eSafety Commissioner. Afterwards, the report is shared with Facebook, and users are asked to send the intimate photos to the social network. The partnership is part of Australia’s new national reporting tool for revenge porn, which is the world’s first.

Facebook and other technology companies use this type of photo-matching technology where images are “hashed” to tackle other types of content including child sex abuse and extremist imagery.

The technology was first developed in 2009 by Microsoft, working closely with Dartmouth and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to clamp down on the same images of sexually abused children being circulated over and over again on the internet. There was technology that could find exact matches of images, but abusers could get around this by slightly altering the files – either by changing their size or adding a small mark.

PhotoDNA’s “hash” matching technology made it possible to identify known illegal images even if someone had altered them. Facebook, Twitter and Google all use the the same hash database to identify and remove illegal images.

Hany Farid, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth who helped develop PhotoDNA, described Facebook’s pilot as a “terrific idea”.

“The deployment of this technology would not prevent someone from sharing images outside of the Facebook ecosystem, so we should encourage all online platforms to participate in this program, as we do with PhotoDNA,” he said.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was exploring additional partners and countries.

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