In Brief

Facebook asks users for nude photos to combat revenge porn

In an Australian pilot scheme, the social network will ‘hash’ sexual imagery to prevent it being uploaded to the site

Facebook is asking its users to send the company nude photos of themselves, as part of a new effort to tackle non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

Individuals “who have shared intimate, nude or sexual images with partners and are worried that the partner (or ex-partner) might distribute them without their consent can use Messenger to send the images to be ‘hashed’”, says The Guardian.

“This means that the company converts the image into a unique digital fingerprint that can be used to identify and block any attempts to re-upload that same image.”

The programme, being piloted in Australia with the country’s eSafety department, “is an attempt to give an element of control back to individuals who may face revenge-porn abuse”, says Alphr.

Australia’s e-safety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, told ABC News that the move would allow victims of “image-based abuse” to take action, noting that one in five Australian women aged 18-45 have had intimate photos shared without their consent.

“We see many scenarios where maybe photos or videos were taken consensually at one point, but there was not any sort of consent to send the images or videos more broadly,” Grant said.

Around 4% of US internet users have been threatened with or victims of revenge porn, according to a 2016 report by the Data and Society Research Institute. And that figure rises to 10% among women under the age of 30.

Carrie Goldberg, a New York-based lawyer who specialises in sexual privacy issues, 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 maximise the harm by broadcasting the nonconsensual porn to those most close to the victim. So this is impactful.”

The company retains the blurred image for some time to ensure the technology is working correctly, and it is then deleted. However, “there may be fears that the images could be intercepted in transit, or could be accessed before they are deleted”, says the The Daily Telegraph.

Hashing technology has often been fooled by users simply resizing or cropping images, adds the paper, but Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, said it was improving its technologies to address the issue.

“This is an initial pilot in Australia. We look forward to getting feedback and learning,” he added.

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