Facebook's revenge porn prevention test has users upload photos

Mallory Locklear

The Australian government and Facebook have teamed up in the fight against revenge porn. As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports, alongside Australia's Office of the eSafety Commissioner, Facebook has launched a pilot program aimed at not just curtailing the spread of revenge porn once it begins, but preventing it altogether.

In April, Facebook announced that it had developed a set of tools that could help stop the spread of sensitive images once they were reported through its site. If the subject of those images told Facebook that the photos had been shared without their permission, Facebook's image-recognition technology would then spot those images if someone attempted to share them again, essentially preventing them from being reposted to Facebook or Instagram or shared repeatedly through Messenger. Now, Facebook is using that technology for prevention in the hopes of stopping those images from being posted on Facebook-owned platforms in the first place.

Australia is the first country to test this new system and here's how it works. If you were worried that someone may post intimate photos of you online, you would first let the Office of the eSafety Commissioner know. After filling out a report and answering a few of the office's questions, the office would then notify Facebook of the report. Then, and here's the part that might surprise you, you'd be asked to send the images in question to yourself through Facebook messenger. Facebook's technology would then kick in and block any images it recognized as duplicates of the ones you sent yourself.

"They're not storing the image, they're storing the link and using artificial intelligence and other photo-matching technologies," eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told the ABC. "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."

Combating revenge porn has been a focus of Australia's eSafety Commissioner, whose office just last month launched a national portal to help victims of revenge porn. And while Australia is the first to test Facebook's program, the company has said it's looking to test it in other countries as well. According to Mashable, the US, UK and Canada are the pilot program's next stops.

How easy it will be for determined individuals to beat Facebook's system will remain to be seen and while some might question how safe it is to deliberately upload their own intimate photos to Facebook Messenger, Grant is confident in the system's security. "We have a great deal of comfort that they have chose the most secure route ... we want to empower people to be able to protect themselves and take action, we don't want to make them vulnerable," she said.

ABC

  • This article originally appeared on Engadget.