Bare necessity? Facebook asks potential revenge porn victims to upload images

Facebook is conducting trials of a new preventative measure to combat revenge porn in Australia. The social media giant is requesting that those who consider themselves vulnerable to such tactics pre-emptively upload their images to the social network. While it might seem counter-intuitive, such a solution would let Facebook, and by extension, the uploader, get ahead of the problem.

Revenge pornography has been a growing problem for years, especially on Facebook, with often inefficient tools, like copyright law, available to take down the images long after they’ve been shared. Facebook is looking to do something much more proactive to prevent the practice in the future, and hopes that people who have the potential to be affected will trust its A.I.-driven system to combat it.

The theory behind the new technique is that someone who knows that there are nude or compromising images of them in the hands of someone who may upload those images can block them from being uploaded. This would not be done in the same manner as some celebrities have by releasing the images to the public, but by uploading the image to Facebook privately, the social network can “hash” the media, effectively marking duplicates of that image for immediate takedown should someone else attempt to upload them.

Developed in conjunction with the Australian e-Safety Commissioner, the service will apply across all Facebook platforms, including Facebook itself, its Messenger application and Instagram.

The recommended course of action for any Australians who feel they may be at risk of revenge porn, is to get in touch with the e-Safety Commissioner to discuss the situation. In some cases, the Commissioner will recommend that the user send the nude images to themselves on Facebook Messenger. Once sent, Facebook will mark the image and will then prevent it from being uploaded again.

The Commissioner clarified, via ABC, that Facebook would not store the image and no human eyes would view it. Instead, Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm will take note of the image and add its hash to the database of already blocked images.

Australia is one of four countries said to be taking part in the trial, though ABC didn’t reveal the other three. If the scheme proves successful, it may be rolled out the world over.

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