The Surprising New Way Facebook Is Helping Fight Revenge Porn In Australia

As part of its new nationwide reporting portal to combat revenge porn, Australia is partnering with Facebook to let users preemptively block uploads of "intimate" pictures and videos on the platform - by sending the images in question to Facebook. Australia is the first country to pilot the new program. A startling one in five Australians report having intimate photos shared without their consent.

Photo: AP

As a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo, users worried about intimate pictures leaking (after a breakup or a hack of their cloud account, for example) can fill out an online form on the official site of Australia's eSafety Commissioner. They will then be asked a series of questions about the photos, including where they're currently hosted and whether they want to involve the police.

Screen grab from eSafety Commissioner's Site

From there, the eSafety Commissioner's office will notify Facebook of the report. Users are then asked to send themselves the intimate photos in Facebook Messenger. Facebook's community operations team will then "hash" the image, essentially giving it a digital fingerprint used to block it from being uploaded to Facebook proper, posted on Instagram, or sent in chats via the Messenger app.

"They're not storing the image, they're storing the link and using artificial intelligence and other photo-matching technologies," Australia's e-Safety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, explained to ABC Australia. "So if somebody tried to upload that same image, which would have the same digital footprint or hash value, it will be prevented from being uploaded."

Crucially, the hash system blocks the images from being uploaded in chats and private groups. In March, investigative reporting uncovered a secret, 30,000-member Facebook group where Marines shared nude photos of servicewomen. Sharing revenge porn in private groups adds a new layer of challenge because the victim may have no idea the pictures are being circulated.

Facebook told Gizmodo it already uses the hash system to prevent previously reported non-consensual photos from being re-uploaded, but this appears to be the first time users can select images to be banned before they even show up on the social network. As of now, Australia is the only country working with the company to preemptively hash and block revenge porn, but Facebook confirmed that it's looking to spread the program further. Similar American initiatives to empower victims of revenge porn include the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and Without My Consent.

[ABC Australia]

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Comments

    While the intentions behind this are good. I cant help but feel this could backfire hugely. All it would take is a database leak and then you have nude photos leaked online along with the personal details associated with them.

    The best thing to prevent revenge porn is have harsher punishments. Criminal charges should be brought in when someone intentionally shares something as revenge.

    Shouldn't it also be possible to send in a portion of the original image and match from that? Serves the same purpose and mitigates the potential for damaging leaks when they eventually happen.

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