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Facebook’s New Program Fighting ‘Revenge Porn’ Stirs Controversy

The pilot was first tested in Australia late last year, then rolled out in the U.S., UK and Canada in May. Facebook declined to disclose if the program has been successful so far.

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    Facebook’s ‘Revenge Porn’ Program Stirs Controversy

    Some call it an invasion of privacy. Facebook's controversial new program asks people for intimate photos to prevent the images from being shared on social media. It's designed to put a dent in the growing revenge porn problem, but NBC 5's Katie Kim has found there's a big problem. (Published Tuesday, June 26, 2018)

    A recent pilot program launched by Facebook aims to fight back against intimate images shared without consent in an unconventional way: send your nudes to Facebook instead. 

    The Non-Consensual Image Pilot Program allows people who fear that someone might maliciously post private photos to proactively send the images to Facebook, which will then use technology to block anyone else from sharing it on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. 

    “It’s demeaning and devastating when someone’s intimate images are shared without permission, and we want to do everything we can to help victims of this abuse,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, wrote in a post, announcing the program. 

    The pilot was first tested in Australia late last year, then rolled out in the U.S., UK and Canada in May. Facebook declined to disclose if the program has been successful so far. 

    Facebook’s New Program Fighting ‘Revenge Porn’ Stirs Controversy

    [CHI] Facebook’s New Program Fighting ‘Revenge Porn’ Stirs Controversy

    A recent pilot program launched by Facebook aims to fight back against intimate images shared without consent in an unconventional way: send your nudes to Facebook instead.

    (Published Tuesday, June 26, 2018)

    Facebook partnered with safety organizations in each country, including the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and the National Network to End Domestic Violence in the United States. 

    “This tool may not be the best tool for everyone, but when we hear survivors come to us, they are at a point where they are desperate,” said Rachel Gibson, Senior Technology Safety Specialist at NNEDV. 

    Here’s how the program works: 

    Individuals who are worried they may become victims of “revenge porn” can contact one of Facebook’s safety partners. After submitting an online form, Facebook will send an email with a secure, one-time link, where individuals can upload the images they fear will be shared. 

    Then, a “small group of full-time employees” at Facebook will view the photos and the report and create a unique digital fingerprint for each image, called a “hash.” The photos are destroyed within seven days, according to Facebook, and only the hashes are stored on servers.

    If someone tries to upload a hashed image, Facebook can block it. 

    Law Professor: “This is crazy!” 

    Some cybersecurity and privacy experts expressed concern over Facebook’s pilot. 

    According to Lori Andrews, a professor in privacy and social media at Chicago’s Kent College of Law, the program creates new problems, rather than solving old ones. 

    “You have to give up so much privacy to get privacy, and that doesn’t seem like a fair balance,” said Andrews. 

    For one, Facebook’s hashing technology allows abusers to crop or color-correct a photo to evade technology. 

    “The hash will only work with the original image,” said a Facebook spokeswoman. “There are always bad actors, and while the technology is not 100%, we’re constantly working to improve the technology and looking for ways to root out recidivist behavior.” 

    Andrews said a better alternative might be giving victims the ability to hash photos right from their own devices. 

    NBC 5 Investigates questioned Facebook about what measures are in place to keep accountable the small group of employees who are tasked with viewing and hashing photos, as well as what controls guard the servers where intimate images are stored before they are destroyed. Facebook referred us back to Davis’ original post announcing the program, which does not address these questions. 

    Charles Lee Mudd, Jr., an attorney at the Mudd Law Firm who handles revenge porn cases, said the program does little to address the nonconsensual porn problem, which is more prevalent on seedy websites, instead of social media platforms. 

    “I would be very cautious for individuals to utilize that service,” said Mudd. 

    Advocate: Program Offers “Peace of Mind” 

    The National Network to End Domestic Violence – one of Facebook’s safety partners – said the program simply offers survivors one more tool to be proactive. 

    “This is not a survivor just uploading to Facebook and hoping for the best,” said Gibson. “This is them connecting with a trusted partner who has worked with Facebook along the years and will help guide them through this process.” 

    Gibson said it’s important to remember the photos are only kept for a short amount of time and they’re only viewed by a few people, as opposed to thousands if they’re shared publicly. 

    “Through the process that Facebook has set up, we are trying to minimize as much risk as possible. We want to do as little harm as we can to help a survivor,” Gibson said.

    The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, another Facebook partner, also said the program allows victims to take action. 

    “Facebook has been at the forefront of the tech industry’s efforts to develop innovative and efficient responses to the problem of nonconsensual pornography,” said Mary Anne Franks, President of CCRI and a law professor at the University of Miami. “It was one of the first major social media platforms to prohibit the unauthorized sharing of intimate images and has sought, in addition to implementing platform-wide policies and tools to fight this abuse, to provide victims with a range of voluntary options to protect themselves.”

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