Facebook Wants All Your Nudes (To Prevent Revenge Porn)

Facebook Wants All Your Nudes (To Prevent Revenge Porn)

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Revenge porn: One in 25 Americans has experienced (or been threatened with) their most intimate photos being released by a resentful ex or asshole hacker. Now Facebook is stepping up to offer us the tools to fight it. All we need to do is hand over our nudes.

Let's back up a little. What Facebook is testing is a kind of preemptive fraud alert, only instead of informing your bank that your wallet has been stolen, you're telling an all-but-omnipresent social network that your sketchy ex is on the warpath, armed with your nudes. And also, you have to send Facebook your nudes. Hm. Maybe Australian e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant can explain it better:

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"[Facebook is not] not storing the image, they're storing the link and using artificial intelligence and other photo-matching technologies. 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. If the program goes according to plan, the photo will never show up on Facebook, even if a hacker or your ex tries to upload it."

As an elevator pitch, this is staggeringly creepy. But it's also problematic, because it still places the burden on the victim. Let's say you're going through a messy breakup with someone whom you no longer trust. In order to cut revenge porn off at the pass, you have to account for every nude image of yourself that your ex may have access to. This solves nothing if your ex took or accessed explicit photos of you without your knowledge, which happens a lot.

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At this point, you may be wondering (as we were) how the hell this even made it onto a drawing board in some Silicon Valley satellite office, much less into any kind of beta testing phase. And you know what? None of us realized that revenge porn was that big a deal on Facebook. On sketchy websites? Yeah. But Facebook? Well, it is. Facebook doesn't officially release these numbers, but a slideshow leaked from inside the company shows that in one month alone, the site was alerted to 51,300 potential cases of revenge porn ... which then had to be reviewed by humans, a notoriously slow-moving species. And these humans only knew about potential revenge porn because they were alerted, which means either the victim or a recipient of the image flagged it.

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As inelegant a solution as "a database of your nudes that no human will ever see, we swear" is, it's the first we've heard about revenge porn prevention. Current laws are few and far between, but they tend to be a bit vague and more focused on punishing the perpetrator than on the victim's reputation. The justice only happens after the graphic images have been circulated to the victim's family, co-workers, and social circle, or revealed to a sketchy all-but- anonymous audience.

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Facebook's approach is headline-grabbing and salacious, but that brings attention to the cause. And for all the tech people laughing about how misguided this approach is, some of them will try to top it. And they'll probably do better than "naked database." So here are some modest suggestions: Few of us are going to be able to overcome the psychological barrier of giving Facebook access to our nudes. How about giving us the option to send out a revenge porn alert, so that you can pair facial recognition with nudity recognition and catch those images instead? We're just spitballing here, but Facebook's most recent experiment suggests there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.

For more, check out What's Good OR BAD For You Now? (11/04/2017) and What Stupid Thing Is Trending Now? (11/04/2017).

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