Facebook steps up fight against revenge porn

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is stepping up its efforts to battle revenge porn, a form of online harassment that a Data & Society survey says affects one in 25 Americans.

The social media giant said in a blog post Wednesday that once a revenge-porn picture is reported and removed, new artificial intelligence photo-matching technologies are used to prevent that same image from being posted on Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page that sharing intimate photos online as a means of shaming an individual is "wrong, it's hurtful, and if you report it to us, we will now use AI and image recognition to prevent it from being shared across all of our platforms."

Given that Facebook is creeping up on two billion global users, it's not a surprise the tech company is eager to crack down on the ways in which it serves as an echo chamber of false or harmful information.

Facebook recently started flagging so-called "disputed news" items that appear on its platform after concerns were raised about the website's role in inadvertently helping proliferate fake news among its users.

Facebook also has had issues with policing its site for nude photos. In early March, a report surfaced about a Marines United group that had posted nude images of current and former female soldiers. Facebook shut down the group after it was made aware of its existence.

And last fall, an Irish judge ruled against dismissing a lawsuit brought against Facebook by a 14-year-old girl whose nude image was shared on Facebook. Although the photo was taken down once it was flagged, the plaintiff argued that Facebook failed to prevent it being repeated re-posted online.

In her blog post, Facebook head of global safety Antigone Davis wrote that "these tools, developed in partnership with safety experts, are one example of the potential technology has to help keep people safe." Some of those experts include the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Center for Social Research and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which offers tips on how to counter revenge porn.

The post explained that the first step in the process requires the offending photo to be flagged by clicking on the "Report" link that is accessed by clicking on the arrow near a post. One of the options for why a given post is problematic is "nude photo of me." Then a Community Operations team member reviews the request, and if it is deemed inappropriate, the photo is removed and blocked from appearing on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

If the poster tries to surface the photo again, they're contacted by Facebook and warned that it violates their terms of service.

Currently, 35 states and Washington, D.C., have laws against online harassment, but there is no federal law against the practice.

Last year's Data & Society Research Institute poll found that people ages 15 to 29 are most likely to report being threatened with the potential sharing of nude or nearly nude images, with 7% of Internet users under the age of 30 experiencing this compared with 2% of adults ages 30 and older.

Woman are particularly vulnerable, with one in 10 under the age of 30 having experienced threats of nonconsensual image sharing.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Marco della Cava on Twitter. 

USA TODAY


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