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Facebook takes new steps to stop 'revenge porn' images from spreading

By HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA | The Washington Post | Published: April 8, 2017

Facebook this week said it is taking new steps to crack down on its network's "revenge porn" problem, including a new process that prevents users from reposting intimate images shared without the subject's consent.

While posting revenge porn was already against the social network's community guidelines, Facebook said it will now identify and catalog specific images reported as revenge porn, according to a blog post by Facebook's Head of Global Safety, Antigone Davis.

Victims of nonconsensual porn often find it very difficult to get images of themselves removed from the Internet, because it's so easy to re-share pictures that have been taken down in other places. Photo-matching software will allow Facebook to prevent pictures that have been removed from surfacing again, at least on its own site. "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," Davis said in the post.

Policing such images has proven a difficult task for Facebook and other social networks that deal with a flood of posts each day and have not always consistently enforced their policies regarding graphic images. Facebook and Twitter have both said that posting revenge porn violates their community standards. Both companies have supported legislation that would make it illegal to distribute these kinds of images.

Approximately 4 percent of U.S. Internet users, about 10.4 million people, have been victims of revenge porn – or threatened with the posting of explicit images – according to a 2016 study by the Data and Society Research Institute.

Facebook's policies on revenge porn have recently come into sharp focus after members of the Marine Corps were found to be sharing nude pictures of female Marines, without permission, in a private Facebook group.

After that group's actions became public, many called on Facebook to clean up its act. "[With] US revenge porn law still a patchwork of difficult-to-enforce statutes, it's increasingly incumbent on Facebook to come up with the solution itself," wrote Wired's Emma Grey Ellis in March. She said that Facebook should devise a more proactive solution to tackling revenge porn, rather than simply reacting to reports.

The new process will go into effect on Facebook, as well as on Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

While Facebook has added a new step to the reporting process behind the scenes, it will still feel familiar for those who've flagged posts for Facebook before.

Users will be able to report images by clicking on the "Report" link, which appears when you tap on the down arrow – or "..." if you are on mobile – in the upper-right hand corner of a post. The social network will then refer the image to its "Community Operations" team, for review by employees, who will then determine whether to take it down.

Those who've posted photos can appeal a takedown decision.

The company said Wednesday that it worked with several groups to develop its new policies, including the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative – a group co-founded by Holly Jacobs, who had been a victim of revenge porn. Davis said in the post that Facebook has worked with the group to create a "one-stop shop" for reporting revenge porn images posted on multiple sites.

"We convened over 150 safety organizations and experts last year in Kenya, India, Ireland, Washington DC, New York, Spain, Turkey, Sweden and the Netherlands to get feedback on ways we can improve," the company said.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who has sponsored legislation that would make revenge porn illegal, said in a statement that Facebook's "new tools are a huge advancement in combating nonconsensual pornography and I applaud Facebook for their dedication in addressing this insidious issue."

While the new revenge porn process could prevent reported images from spreading through Facebook, it does still depend on users reporting images for themselves – something that may not happen too often in closed groups such as Marines United, where users have created a community to share these types of images.

Davis said that the company will continue to evolve its tools in the future.
 

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