Justice

Facebook Launches New Technology to Prevent the Spread of Revenge Porn

Facebook is taking steps to fight revenge porn. 

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The social network company just launched photo-matching technology that will make it easier to stop the spread of images reported as revenge porn on its own site, Messenger, and Instagram.

This comes in the wake of Marines United scandal, in which hundreds of nude (or otherwise intimate) photos of female marines were shared in a private Facebook group without their permission.   

Antigone Davis, Head of Global Safety at Facebook, said in statement that the technology "helps thwart further attempts to share the image on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. If someone tries to share the image after it’s been reported and removed, we will alert them that it violates our policies and that we have stopped their attempt to share it."

According to a 2013 study by Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 90 percent of victims of revenge porn are women and more than half of them said the images were posted by an ex-boyfriend. The study also found that 93 percent of victims "suffered significant emotional distress," from being a subject of the online attack. A report from CNN on Wednesday cited one study from the Data & Society Research Institute that said, "the phenomenon is emotionally distressing, even resulting in some publicized suicides as a result of the shame and bullying that often results."

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), an organization dedicated to helping victims of revenge porn, released a statement in support of Facebook's efforts in protecting the "privacy, dignity, and safety" of others. 

"With this new tool, Facebook has raised the bar for the tech industry's response to online abuse. Facebook has once again demonstrated leadership and innovation in the fight against nonconsensual pornography. We are proud to partner with Facebook in its continuing efforts to protect the privacy, dignity, and safety of all of its users," said Holly Jacobs, Board President and Executive Director of CCRI.

The news has generally been met with support from the online community, but there are also critical responses from those who say the move should have come sooner. 

CCRI had previously been critical of the tech industry's handling of revenge porn. 

Dr. Mary Anne Franks, professor at the University of Miami School of Law and Vice President of the non-profit organization, wrote that "much work remains to be done" in a post on CCRI's website on April 3.

"As the recent Marines United photo scandal has shown, far too many people — including men who are supposed to represent the best of American society — still consider it acceptable to distribute and consume naked photos of women without their consent, and shift blame for their horrific conduct on to the women themselves," Franks wrote. "The tech industry has provided little to no information to the public about the enforcement or effectiveness of their policies, and most platforms have so far failed to move beyond reactive approaches to the problem to implementing the preemptive measures necessary to counteract this abuse."

Featured Image:AP/Eric Risberg