Facebook wants to combat revenge porn with your nude photos

Facebook is piloting an initiative to fight revenge porn which involves Facebook users sending the social network their nude photos. Facebook is initially partnering with 4 countries for the global pilot.

The aim of the project, according to Facebook, is to help prevent intimate images of Facebook users being posted and shared on Facebook, Messenger, Facebook Groups and Instagram.

“The safety and well-being of the Facebook community is our top priority. As part of our continued efforts to better detect and remove content that violates our community standards, we’re using image matching technology to prevent non-consensual intimate images from being shared on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Groups and Messenger. These tools, developed in partnership with global safety experts, are one example of how we’re using new technology to keep people safe and prevent harm – one of five key areas of focus as we help to build a supportive, inclusive and safe global community,” said Antigone Davis, Head of Global Safety at Facebook.

Australia, Canada, the UK, and the U.S. are participating in the pilot.

Revenge porn, or sometimes known as image-based abuse, is the process where revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person are posted on the Internet without the consent of the person in the photos. The images or videos are typically by a former sexual partner and most times posted online in to cause them distress or embarrassment.

According to Australia's eSafety Commissioner, one of the partners Facebook is piloting this with, only adults concerned that an intimate image may be shared online can complete an online form on the eSafety Commissioner's official website detailing their concerns. Thereafter, they will be asked to send the imagery to themselves on Facebook Messenger while Australia's eSafety Commissioner's office notifies Facebook of their submission. Once Facebook has received this notification, the social networks community operations team will use image matching technology to prevent any instances of the image being uploaded or shared online by ‘hashing’ the image – creating a digital fingerprint or link to prevent it from being uploaded across Facebook's platforms.

A good example of image hashing technology that works in a similar way is Microsoft's PhotoDNA. PhotoDNA has previously been used to combat the spread of child exploitation images among other use cases.

Microsoft PhotoDNA Cloud Service
Microsoft PhotoDNA Cloud Service.

That sounds good until you consider Facebook's Terms of Service which state that:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

Given that any content you post to Facebook can be distributed by them as they please (you've already given them license to do so by signing up for Facebook), not to mention that there will be Facebook staff involved in handling the images and hashing them, there is cause for concern that the whole process can be abused in different ways.

Although the announcement is likely well-intentioned, tread carefully. If you are really worried about your nudes being leaked at any point in time (including in case you lose your phone), it is probably best not to even take nude photos in the first place.

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