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Facebook takes aim at revenge porn with photo-matching technology

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Amy Swales
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Facebook has had ups and downs when it comes to what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable content on the social networking site, revising its policies after taking down pictures of mastectomy scars and breastfeeding in the past and having little in place to stop malicious users constantly reposting offensive content.

However the company has announced new plans to tackle the problem of revenge porn – the distribution of intimate pictures without the subject’s consent, often obtained either while in a relationship or via blackmail.

One of the significant changes will be the use of photo-matching technology to attempt to combat the issue of reported pictures simply being reposted and shared as quickly as they’re taken down.



Users will still have to report the image in the first instance (by clicking ‘Report’ in the drop-down menu on the picture), then a dedicated team of “specially trained representatives” will assess whether it counts as violating the community standards.

If so, the account will be blocked “in most cases” (with the chance to appeal) and the photo-recognition technology will seek out any reproductions, delete them and send a warning to the user sharing.

In a post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: “It's wrong, it's hurtful, and if you report it to us, we will now use AI and image recognition to prevent it from being shared across all of our platforms.”

The new systems will be in place on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, though not WhatsApp (which uses end-to-end encryption) and were developed with input from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Center for Social Research, Revenge Porn Helpline and Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

Antigone Davis, head of global safety, said in a press release: “These tools, developed in sponsored_longform with safety experts, are one example of the potential technology has to help keep people safe. Facebook is in a unique position to prevent harm, one of our five areas of focus as we help build a global community.

“We are grateful for all of the advice and assistance we received in developing these tools and resources. We worked with and other companies to create a one-stop destination for victims and others to report this content to the major technology companies […]

“We convened over 150 safety organizations and experts last year in Kenya, India, Ireland, Washington DC, New York, Spain, Turkey, Sweden and the Netherlands to get feedback on ways we can improve. Their feedback helped drive us to today’s announcement.

“We look forward to building on these tools and working with other companies to explore how they could be used across the industry.”

facebook revenge porn reporting

Facebook now has new technology to track down copies of offending pictures

As , Laura Higgins, founder of the UK's Revenge Porn Helpline praised the move as “a huge step forward.”

“Quite often these images are posted on social media as part of a domestic situation in which someone is trying to get at their target and their nearest and dearest,” she told the BBC.

“One of the greatest challenges is to stop people re-uploading the content.”



As Revenge Porn Helpline states, so-called revenge porn is not restricted to online sharing.

“Sometimes also referred to as non-consensual pornography or image based sexual abuse, it is the act of sharing intimate pictures or videos of someone either on or offline, without their consent.

“The content is often linked to the victim's social networking accounts and other websites and viewers are encouraged to share, download and comment. In some cases links to the content is emailed or sent to family and friends or employers.

“Sometimes images are posted on social media or blogs, dating sites, porn sites or websites which have been deliberately set up to host this content. They have been shared through emails, shown on phone screens. There have been cases where images have been printed and put on the cars on the street.

“Overall, the intention is to cause significant embarrassment, harassment and shame and the effects can be devastating. To have explicit images that are deeply personal in the public domain is an emotionally traumatic and violating experience. The effect on victims is often pervasive and long lasting.”

If you have been a victim of revenge porn find information and support at revengepornhelpline.org.uk or call 0345 6000 459 (during working hours).

Images: iStock

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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

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